Sandy Beach, near the Baw Beese Trail, will begin its final phase of devel­opment in the spring of 2020. Calli Townsend | Col­legian

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.