BENTON HARBOR -- This beach doesn't include a large bathhouse, a fun carousel or touristy shops just up the hill, as its neighbor to the south -- Silver Beach -- does.
But the strip of sand north of the iconic lighthouse attracts its share of giggling children, just the same.
Jean Klock Park has been the center of some angst for several years now as the city has leased some of the original park land for three holes of the Harbor Shores development and golf course.
But you couldn't find any sign of that on a recent Friday afternoon there, unless you count a few improvements as part of the development, such as new parking spaces and a walking path in dunes to the east of the beach.
In fact, Cassandra Kent says she's preferred to bring her two sons to this beach for the last few years.
She avoids weekends, when it's more crowded. Still, the St. Joseph Township resident knows "a ton of people when I come out here."
License plates in the parking lot nearly all reflect Michigan residence; daily entrance is cheaper for residents. Kent says the $35 annual pass she buys is money well spent.
When the kids were smaller, they hung out at Lions Park, Kent says. But the appeal of that once-free spot dimmed once it began to charge admission. Besides, the shore was considerably more rocky than other beaches.
At Tiscornia, she says, the bathroom was too difficult to see from the beach, to monitor the children. Rocky Gap just to the north of Jean Klock has a steep incline that makes it tougher to lug a cooler and other amenities with you.
A friend, Michelle Kerns, says that even in the winter, her family spends time at this beach.
They may as well; even from the summer visits, she laughs, "I'll have sand in my shower until January."
Children digging in sand, skipping rocks, climbing the small playground and shrieking at the water's chill fill the air at Jean Klock Park, which is appropriate considering that almost a century ago, the spot was named for a little girl.
In 1917, J.N. and Carrie Klock bought the land and deeded it to the city of Benton Harbor for a public park in memory of their daughter, who died in early childhood.
During the public dedication, the girl's father said, in part,
"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 is a gift from a little child. See to it that the park is the children's."
If you go
What: Jean Klock Park
Where: Benton Harbor; finding the entrance is a little confusing. From St. Joseph, take Michigan 63 north about a mile. Turn left, follow Klock Road two-tenths mile. Turn right, follow Jean Drive two-tenths mile to entrance.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (gates close at 10) daily.
Admission price: $6 per vehicle for Benton Harbor residents; $8 for nonresidents.
Where to park: You’ll see parking near the entrance gate, but follow the paved path to closer spots.
Lifeguard on duty: No
Covered pavilions or shade available: Yes
Picnic facilities or concessions available: Covered pavilion; offerings are limited to basically sandwiches and sodas at the concession stand.
(Entrance permits allow in-and-out privileges for the day, and they advertise beach delivery by Domino’s and Jimmy John’s.)
Restroom facilities: Yes, including showers
More information: It’s difficult to find up-to-date or complete information online, and calls to city offices weren’t returned. A Wikipedia page contains more about the park’s history and recent legal battles.
Contact Virginia Black: 574-235-6321 firstname.lastname@example.org facebook.com/tribune.virginiablack