The Hillsdale Rotary Club will enter its fourth and final phase of renovations to Sandy Beach on Baw Beese Lake in the spring of 2020.
These renovations will include relocating the current entrance to the park, updating the landscaping, and installing security cameras and new sidewalks.
“We’re going to move the current entrance to the park away from the beach area in a more eastwardly direction,” Project Chairman Richard Moore said. “It will improve the safety for pedestrians and vehicles.”
Hillsdale Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Loren said the change in the entrance will be a huge improvement to the park’s safety.
“It’s all gravel right now, and there’s no designated parking. By creating an ingress and an egress it will be a lot more clear where to go,” Loren said. “There will also be a grassy buffer along the backside of the fence. Right now that fence is the only thing between the parking lot and the water, so it’ll add some green space for more safety.”
The Sandy Beach project began in 2009 after the completion of the Baw Beese Trail that leads to the beach. Moore said the Rotary Club wanted to do something to improve the Hillsdale community.
“We were, as a club, going around to different towns and cities and talking to different people about different projects we could take on,” Moore said. “We thought about a pool or a skating rink, but then we thought about this natural resource we had at the end of the trail.”
The club decided to make the most of what Hillsdale already had to offer and improve the beach at the Baw Beese Lake.
“The building was in rough shape and the beach wasn’t really a beach,” Moore said. “It was mostly just dirt, and that was back in 2009. We brought in 600 tons of new sand and refined the beach area with sidewalks.”
Once the beach was improved, phase two began with the renovation of the existing concession stand building, which required a complete remodel. With phase three, the community came together to install new playground equipment and build the basketball and volleyball courts.
“It was a community-wide project in 2015. Even the Hillsdale College football team and other sports teams came to help,” Moore said. “A lot of manpower was needed.”
These park improvements have been a great resource for the Hillsdale community members, Hillsdale College, and the Hillsdale Parks and Recreation Department alike. Hillsdale’s head volleyball coach Chris Gravel often brings his team there to practice on the sand volleyball courts and the Student Activities Board hosts events there.
Junior middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen said the workouts the volleyball team does at Sandy Beach are some of the hardest of the season. They begin by doing a team indian run through the sand. Then they move onto even more conditioning.
“After that we do something called the ‘tough girl run’ where we line up on the far edge of the buoys out of the water, then we sprint into the water to the far buoy where only a few of us can touch,” Van Wienen said. “It is so refreshing to get out of the gym and be able to go and train on a different surface and in a different atmosphere.”
She said they also do some other footwork and conditioning drills in the sand and it ends up being about an hour-long practice.
“It’s also a great bonding time for the team because even though it’s not the most fun to go through it’s one of those things where you can look back and laugh at for sure. We love Baw Beese.”
The Hillsdale College volleyball team isn’t the only group of people to benefit from the much improved Sandy Beach.
“It’s given the community a very nice place to go and enjoy their summer days. It’s clean, it’s orderly, there’s basketball, and volleyball now,” Loren said. “They’ve improved so much. With the Rotary Club stepping in, it’s just added another gem to the community.”
Loren said the Rotary Club is still in the fundraising stage before it can complete phase four.
“It’s a huge expense to do this. It will depend largely on when they can get the funds,” Loren said. “Moore has been such a large part in spearheading this whole project.”
Donations can be sent to the Hillsdale County Community Foundation.
“We’re hoping to finish up next year. It will be the 100th anniversary of our club, so we’re excited to mark that milestone by finishing up this project,” Moore said.