Covert Lakefront Property is among the most affordable in Southwest Michigan. Located in between St Joseph, MI and South Haven, MI, Covert is about a 1 1/2 to 2 hour drive from Chicago.
The township has a rural, off-the-beaten path feeling to it that is exactly what you may be seeking in a Lake Michigan hideaway. Much of it’s not especially wealthy or glamorous; Covert residents have to head a few miles north to South Haven to find trendy restaurants or Nifty Gifties. If you’re looking for a place with snob appeal, Covert may not be for you.
But if you couldn’t care less about snob appeal and are looking for a quiet retreat from which to enjoy Lake Effect living, Covert is a great possibility to consider. Its roughly 3,200 residents are spread over thirty-five square miles as pretty as anywhere in Southwest Michigan, leaving plenty of elbow room, and among your neighbors you will find outsider artists and musicians, fruit growers, activists, families with generations of history and other folks to whom that quiet life appeals.
Covert Beach has a park and campground in a delicious wooded setting, offering a far more secluded experience than South Haven or St. Joseph. The Ross Coastal Plain Marsh Preserve is a neighbor, open for hiking, bird watching, snowshoeing and deer hunting by special permit in one of southwest Michigan’s largest surviving hardwood forests. There’s also the Palisades Park Country Club, a nonprofit entity flying far below the radar yet dear to the hearts of its members. Covert’s got a library and a small museum and a couple of good community organizations quietly striving to benefit Southwestern Michigan.
Another entity taking its name from the steep Palisades dunescape is Palisades Nuclear Power Plant, owned and operated by Entergy. Palisades and its new neighbor, New Covert Generating, are two of the 800-pound-gorilla taxpayers in Van Buren County, and their dealings with Covert Township, especially with its small rural school district, are a source of drama. Yet it’s also evident that many Covert residents get on with life in their sector of paradise without letting that stop them- and a sweet life it is.
Covert does not have a large commercial district, but the places that survive do so because they win the hearts of locals. Arellano’s Fresh Fruit Market has made a go of it in Covert for ten years, expanding from fresh fruit to choice meats and then to authentic and delicious Mexican cuisine.
Beyond Arellano’s and a couple of convenience stores, there’s not a lot of commerce- although by the time you read this, if history is a guide, someone will have opened or reopened a barbecue joint or two and a place to grab a cold beer.
But really, Covert doesn't need a lot going on. Fifteen minutes to the north, South Haven does a great job of maintaining a lively shopping and dining scene. Fifteen minutes to the east, Bangor has great pizza at Roma’s and delicious pub food at the Bangor Tavern. Fifteen minutes to the south is Coloma, land of wineries and chocolate truffles (among other things.) Why bother competing with all of that bounty when you can go visit it at will and come home to a place that’s peaceable and relatively free of tourists?
Arellano’s, besides being a great place for a Mexican lunch or dinner, can handle your grocery needs with style. For big box shopping, Covert residents can go eight miles and be in South Haven. To get a prescription filled or your car serviced, you’ve got a choice of South Haven or the much less crowded Bangor.
South Haven Health Systems maintains an acute care inpatient hospital, an urgent care facility, and a range of specialty clinics. You’ll also find high-quality chiropractic care, and there are a variety of other holistic modalities offered at South Haven Natural Health.
South Haven Regional Airport is a public facility with two runways serving smaller planes The nearest major airports are Kalamazoo/Battle Creek and South Bend, Indiana, both just about an hour away. Amtrak service to Chicago is available from Bangor.
Covert has a proud, poignant and beautiful tale. Its first name in English, Deerfield, was changed in 1877, about a decade after settlement began to take hold. Thickly forested and lacking a river or railroad depot, its settlement lagged behind many parts of the coastline until well after the mid-19th century- at least in terms of economic development.
Socially, though, Covert stood head and shoulders above the rest in terms of post-Civil-War integration. Black refugees gravitated there from the Underground Railroad stop in Cass County, among other places, and in 1868, Dawson Pompey became the first African American in Michigan to hold elective office. He was highway superintendent, supervising an integrated crew, which would have been unheard of in most places. An early school official of Caucasian ancestry, Adolphus Sherburn, decided to just quietly ignore the law against integrated classrooms and didn't bother to mention the skin colors of students.
Covert quietly ignored the whole idea that they should be segregated in any way. Black and white kids were educated together, played together, and went on to socialize and celebrate together; there are still Covert residents alive who can recall the shock of finding out how different things were everywhere else when they ventured out into the Jim Crow world. There are current residents descended from those early pioneers, still living contentedly side by side.
Covert’s history has been memorialized in a couple of good books and a Smithsonian exhibit, as well as this excellent article from National Public Radio. There’s a sadness to the fact that Covert’s peaceable coexistence is such an unusual story, and to the fact that they often had to violate the laws of the day and keep silence to maintain it- covertly, as it were. Someday, maybe, the world will catch up with Covert.
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