Local News

Dune Walk Bench in Memory of City Manager

(New Buffalo, MI) - He died from COVID-19 before realizing a final dream, but his memory is being kept alive on the new handicapped accessible Dune Walk he helped launch at the public beach in New Buffalo.


A new, totally-handcrafted wooden bench on the Dune Walk was dedicated Saturday in memory of David Richards, 69, who was city manager before succumbing to COVID-19 in December of 2020.


The more user-friendly Dune Walk opened to the public last fall.


“This project was very important to Dave.  He said to me, personally, he started it and he really wanted to see it through its’ completion. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen but I know he’s here today in spirit,” said New Buffalo City Clerk Amy Fidler.


A small plaque containing the names of Richards and New Buffalo resident Mary Rose Roberts, who ordered and paid for the bench, is on the front of what’s also viewed as a work of art.


Roberts, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years ago, said she wanted a bench for all people with physical challenges using Dune Walk to be able to sit down and enjoy the view of the surrounding landscape and water.


Her idea stems from being unable to keep up with family members while hiking Warren Dunes State Park because of how her progressive condition weakens her legs.  Roberts said the bench provides a place for people with physical limitations to still get out with loved ones and enjoy the beautiful surroundings while waiting for them to return from their hiking.


“I’m just really looking forward to people enjoying this bench for a lifetime,” she said.


Roberts said dedicating the bench in memory of Richards was an idea from City Hall after she reached out looking for someone to dedicate it to.


She felt honored to do it after learning more about him personally.


“They mentioned how much the city staff loved Dave Richards. How he dedicated his life to community.  It’s just such an important thing for me that we all focus more on our communities and doing the best we can,” she said.


She commissioned Eric Trowbridge, the owner of a wood working company in Elkhart, Ind., for the job and donated the $5,000 in supplies.


The maker of customer cabinetry and other things like furniture didn’t charge for much of the 150 hours invested in designing and assembling the bench made from bending white oak and mahogany slats.  The bench rests on a metal base colored in a variety of blues, greens and browns from applying chemicals to the surface to create an aging effect.


“It kind of correspondents with the lake and the sea grass and the sand,” Trowbridge said.


Trowbridge said the slats and stain used on the wood were selected to reflect the rolling textures of the sand and different color the sand takes on at the shoreline from contact with the water coming in from the lake.


Mayor John Humphrey said the Dune Walk is much improved over the old one, which was narrower, steeper and contained more stairs.


The old Dune Walk was also closed to the public because of disrepair brought on by age before it was torn down and replaced at the same location at a cost of nearly $900,000.


Humphrey said the project was funded primarily with federal and state dollars along with a monetary contribution from the Pokagon Fund.

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