South Haven Visitors Bureau, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and South Haven Area Recreation Authority Working Together on the Project to Honor the Covered Bridge

The South Haven Van Buren County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), South Haven Area Recreation Authority (SHARA) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are partnering to explore options to honor the beloved Nichols Covered Bridge. The three organizations are working together to determine how they can honor the legacy of the covered bridge while supporting the South Haven community residents and visitors. As part of this partnership, the South Haven CVB, SHARA, and the DNR have begun initial discussions about the purchase of a 49-acre property located adjacent to the Kal-Haven Trail and formerly known as the Riverwoods development. Upon completion of the purchase, the property is intended to belong to SHARA.  “It’s really a win-win,” said Jennifer Sistrunk, executive director of the South Haven Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We’re excited about the opportunity to work together with the DNR to honor our community’s history and give back to support recreation in our community. While adding a separate cover to the new bridge was discussed with the DNR, developing this site provided better community value over the long term, and serves as an opportunity to address the community’s goal to save the covered bridge for future use.” The Donald F. Nichols Covered Bridge was a cherished symbol of the community for nearly thirty years. The bridge was deconstructed in 2023 as part of a major resurfacing project on the Kal-Haven Trail State Park. While deteriorating materials meant the bridge was not salvageable, remnants of the bridge were saved and stored for future use in the community. SHARA noted opportunities to rehome the salvaged former cover of the Nichols bridge, including installing a portion of the cover on a land-based trail for photo opportunities and historical reflection. One of the ideas for the property is the development of a community recreational park. Preliminary considerations for the site include a small craft launch, a pavilion with grilling stations, and a mountain biking loop. SHARA noted that there is also community interest in the development of a dog park and pickleball courts.  “This partnership is really a homerun,” said Ross Stein, South Haven Township Supervisor and chairman of SHARA. “This land has the potential to be the answer to many different interests and desires for our community. SHARA has a history of partnering with the DNR via numerous recreational projects in the area and previously discussed different project ideas for this site. We’re thrilled to partner once again with the CVB and DNR to support recreation in South Haven.” “Working toward future, creative uses of the bridge materials has been a top priority for the DNR, and we’re so pleased that through this collaboration with South Haven Visitors Bureau and South Haven Area Recreation Authority we’ll be able to help honor this historic community symbol,” said Tim Novak, state trails coordinator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in the Parks and Recreation Division. “DNR staff is also incredibly excited about the possibilities with this 49-acre property adjacent to the Kal-Haven Trail and working together to further expand recreation opportunities for community members.”