Community Shows Outpouring of Support for Pilgrim Haven



Dick Brunvand, South Haven resident and SWMLC volunteer, discusses photographs of Camp Pilgrim Haven with visitors on Saturday.


On Saturday, July 28, 2012, an extraordinary milestone was celebrated in jubilant fashion when more than 400 southwest Michigan residents and supporters joined SWMLC at Pilgrim Haven Natural Area to honor the late Suzanne U. D. Parish and her incredible gift to the community.  Visitors strolled the site's breathtaking beaches, dotted with colorful umbrellas and occupied easels, as the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan re-created Pilgrim Haven's unique splendor on canvas.  Set against the backdrop of Lake Michigan under brilliant blue skies, an afternoon toast was given in honor of Suzanne Upjohn DeLano Parish with words of thanks from:  Jim Marcoux, president of South Haven Area Community Foundation; Robert Burr, City of South Haven Mayor; Ross Stein, South Haven Township supervisor; and Peter Ter Louw, SWMLC executive director.  “It’s Ours, It’s Yours, It’s Forever” proclaimed Ter Louw, after recognizing Mrs. Parish and several contributors instrumental in faciliating the gift and site improvements.  The afternoon tribute was capped off with a family-friendly toast, poured into commemorative Pilgrim Haven Natural Area glasses which were gifted to those in attendance.   

During the day-long celebration, SWMLC unveiled the recently finalized concept design plan, a culmination of over a year of public input from area residents, businesses, and many former campers spanning 70 years when Pilgrim Haven was dedicated to that use.  The design plan will be incorporated into a master site plan, which will establish permitted uses, management structure, site-design and restoration objectives.  Area residents, former campers, and a bounty of SWMLC members and supporters spent the day hiking the site's trails, wading in the shallow waters of clay-bottomed Dyckman Creek and walking the beaches in upper 70 degree temps as light Lake Michigan breezes floated in to keep the beach scene cool and comfortable. 

In early afternoon, site tours were led by SWMLC conservation and stewardship Director Nate Fuller and Ken Peregon of O'Boyle, Cowell, Blalock & Associates, a Kalamazoo- based landscape architect and land planning firm.  The tour highlighted the site's natural history, human-use history and the areas planned for improvements.  The camp's former dining hall was recently demolished, but as suggested by popular demand throughout the 2011 design charrette, its 30-foot fireplace was left in tact as a future centerpiece for a planned pavilion.

The outpouring of support on Saturday was incredible and underscores the vast number of southwest Michigan residents and former campers that this gift has touched.  SWMLC thanks all who contributed ideas toward the future design and use of Pilgrim Haven, and everyone who celebrated with us to honor Mrs. Parish and to support SWMLC and Pilgrim Haven moving forward.

To see Dick Brunvand's youtube video of this event,  go to:


Richard Jordan, director of the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan, paints the Dyckman Creek outlet into Lake Michigan along the beach of Pilgrim Haven.