Benton Harbor, Michigan is a predominately African American community with most of its citizens living in poverty. When Whirlpool closed their factory there last year, the residents were left with practically nothing -- an exception being Jean Klock Park.
Jean Klock Park is half mile of globally rare freshwater sand dunes that had been gifted to the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan in 1917 by John and Carrie Klock in memory of their daughter Jean Klock "FOR THE CHILDREN" - "in perpetuity" - "FOREVER." Before he deeded the land, John Klock sent a letter titled, "It Is More Blessed To Give Than To Receive", to the Mayor and Common Council of the City of Benton Harbor. In that letter, John Klock made the intent of the donation clear: "It is our wish that the lakefront always be preserved in its natural state and be a playground for the children and a bathing beach for all the people." And for nearly a hundred years it remained a pristine public park for all to enjoy.
Newly elected Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has appointed an emergency manager to go into impoverished Benton Harbor, essentially stripping the city's elected officials of all their power. This Governor-appointed emergency manager now has the power to sell Jean Klock Park. The City has already allowed a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Club and a glitzy second home community to be built in the park. The dunes are now home to three holes of a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. And now the Emergency Manager can sell what remains of the park.
The only thing standing between the transfer of the park from the people of Benton Harbor is that it must be approved by the National Park Service. Tell the National Park Service to deny the transfer in defense of the land, the citizens of Benton Harbor, and the Klock family!
In a city where the citizens have been through so much and are left with so little, it is unconscionable to allow an Emergency Manager appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to come in and take one of the last things of value and pride in Benton Harbor, and sell it off to developers. In addition, the land has been severely underpriced to the benefit of the wealthy developers trying to obtain it; the land consists of globally rare ecosystems and threatened species; and the land was deeded under the intention that it remain undeveloped and for all to enjoy, forever.
As John Klock said when deeding the land to the citizens of Benton Harbor:
"In taking an inventory of life, we all take stock of the circumstances surrounding the happiest moments. The giving of this park to the city of Benton Harbor has been to Mrs. Klock and myself, the happiest moment of our lives. The deed of this park in the courthouse of St. Joseph will live forever. Perhaps some of you do not own a foot of ground, remember then, that this is your park, it belongs to you. Perhaps some of you have no piano or phonograph, the roll of the water murmuring in calm, roaring in storm, is your music, your piano and music box. The beach is yours, the drive is yours, the dunes are yours, all yours. It is not so much a gift from my wife and myself, it’s a gift from a little child. See to it that the park is the children's.”
Please make sure that his intention is honored and the treasure that is Jean Klock Park remains protected forever.