Benzonia Township, Benzie County, Michigan

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•  Elections •  Planning and Zoning
•  Fire Department   •  Recycling
•  History of the Township   •  Register to Vote
•  Ordinances   •  Township Cemetery
•  Memorial Park   •  Township Newsletter
•  Pictures    


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All elections are now held at the Benzonia Township Hall.

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Register to Vote

Fire Department

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See our Facebook page

About the department:

Our volunteer fire department averages 14 members. Six of the current members are medically trained to serve on the department medical first response crew. This crew works to assist Benzie County EMS in the almost daily emergency needs of the township. All of our firefighters are state certified.

We have increased our averages for the medical calls and fire calls yearly. We’ve had a contract with our neighbors to the south (Joyfield Township) since 1993 to provide fire and first responder medical services.

We pride ourselves in the ability to budget our money and pay cash for all of the equipment purchases we make. A truck can run around $300,000 plus and the equipment can easily add another $10,000 plus.

Our fire department is obtaining permission and the permits necessary for the controlled burning of a house in Benzie County. This will include several training sessions inside and outside the structure, which will be a valuable tool for our firemen’s experience under somewhat controlled conditions. This will be the second house in recent years that we have had the opportunity to use in this way.

Trucks in opeartion:

  • Engine 1: Class A CAF pumper — 1999
  • Engine 2: Class A CAF pumper — 2009
  • Tanker — 2006
  • Rescue — 2012
  • Medical responder — 2009

Some of the equipment being used:

  • Scott SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) — 2012
  • Air compressor designed to compress air for the Scott SCBA - 2013
  • Turn out gear — 2014
  • Helmets — 2014
  • Thermal imaging camera — 2014
  • Jaws of Life — upgraded 2018

Pictures – click on an image to view larger.

Fire Department
& Township Hall


Fire Station


Future fireman
in training


& Son


2014 Fourth of
July Parade





Part of our fall
collection, this is what every well-dressed firefighter will be wearing next year...!

2014 Fourth of
July Parade

2014 Fourth of
July Parade

2014 Fourth of
July Parade

"Um, hello, does anyone notice the fire behind you...?!"







Engine 2: Class
A, CAF pumper


Our crew!






History of the Township  

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According to J.B. Walker, one of the first settlers of Benzonia Township, the name Benzonia is from the Latin and Greek words that mean “good air” or “good area (zone).” The use of Latin and Greek in its name name is appropriate as the Congregationalist pioneers came to found a religious colony and sought to start a new college in the untamed wilds of northwest Michigan.

These first families were largely from Ohio, and the oldest maps of the area list Benzonia Township as the “Ohio Colony Lands.” Most had connections through Oberlin College in northeast Ohio. Oberlin College was the first college in the United States to admit women, and was dedicated to abolition (the freeing of the slaves).

In 1858, inspired by the high ideals of Oberlin College, Charles E. Bailey led a group of Oberlin Alumni including ministers, teachers, farmers, and business people, to what is today Benzonia Township. The colonists' “Articles of Agreement and Plans for a Christian Colony and Institution of Learning” provided that a quarter of the stockholdrers' lands were to establish and endow the college.

The original political organization of government for the colony was Crystal Lake Township, and part of Grand Traverse County. In 1861, Benzonia Township was organized from this, and so the new college chartered in 1863 was named Grand Traverse College. Over time, the name of the college was changed to Benzie College (1890-1899), and finally, the Benzonia Academy (1900-1918).

In addition to the college, the main industries of Benzonia Townhip have included lumbering, farming, and after the lowering of Crystal Lake in 1873, tourism. With the arrival of the railroad in 1887, resorters began to visit the area's resorts and build cottages on Crystal and Platte Lakes. When automobiles became affordable, and roads improved, tourism as an industry continued to grow, especially along the north shore of Crystal Lake and the south shore of Platte Lake.

Today, except for the college which closed in 1918, that which attracted the original settlers to Benzonia Township can still be found. The many small businesses, agricultural products, and recreational activities in the woods and on the water, still attract visitors and residents to Benzonia Township.

Memorial Park  

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Located behind (west of) Watson Benzie car dealership, Memorial Park is a 30-acre parcel of land reaching from South Street to Grace Road. The Memorial Park Committee works with the township board to continue to improve the park. It's used for class reunions, weddings, family gatherings, ball games, 4-H soccer, and many, many other gatherings.

To schedule the park, please use the Memorial Park Usage Form and contact the Township Office at 231-882-4411. We ask that you schedule large gatherings to assure that the park will not be overbooked.

Please note that we gladly accept donations!

Pictures from around the park – click on an image to view larger.

Dog Park, aka CENTRAL BARK!

Benzie County's first dog park (CENTRAL BARK, Dog Park) is located in the south east part of the park behind Honor Bank. It’s a great addition to our community and gives our otherwise leashed doggies a chance to get out and play with their friends. Benches are located in the fenced in area for humans as well as doggie bags, and a water station. You must clean up after your pets.

Pictures of the dog park – click on an image to view larger.


Disc Golf

The disc golf course is located in Memorial Park at the south end. It’s a 9-hole course and is open to anyone wanting to play. Donations are accepted to maintain this fine course. Please call the township with questions.

History of Benzonia Township Memorial Park

In 1956, a local landowner started the formation of Benzonia Township park by selling 20 acres of land at a great discount to Benzonia High School for a football–baseball field with the provision that it would always be used for public use.

In 1979, the Benzie Central High School created new fields on Homestead Road and followed the provision by selling the 20 acres of football and baseball fields to Benzie County for $1.00. In 1980, a county committee was formed and representatives of field users were incorporated into a County Recreation Committee. The committee was Richard Ide, Chairman, from the men's Slo-Pitch, and Gloria Walterhouse from women's Slo-Pitch. Other committee members represented County Little League, the High School, and a Benzie County Board member.

In 1980, the Benzie County Board approved the enlargement and development of now a 30-acre parcel. (The committee had purchased another 10 acres from Harold Ridout using the same provision of public use.)

From 1980 to 1989, the volunteer committee had developed a full-scale park with four ball fields — one lighted and a soccer area. All this was accomplished by volunteer labor, donations, and grants that were available. The Benzie County Board of Commissioners recognized that the county could not continue to maintain that area, so in keeping with the provision, Benzonia Township stepped forward and accepted the park and all maintenance and development responsibilities.

Since 1989, the area has progressed into the very well-developed and fully-used township park that you see today. This includes a playground area, pavilion, picnic area, enlarging the soccer area, restrooms, and a volleyball area. There have been over $100,000.00 in improvements at no direct cost to the township or to taxpayers.

There have also been several Eagle Scout Projects completed at our park. They include the picnic tables, the entry garden area ,and the storage shed used for equipment for soccer and little leagues.

The park is kept in beautiful condition for all seasons. The township retains a full-time maintenance person for the nine-month active season. The township has kept the volunteer committee intact and is proud to have a non-fee township park open to all people wishing to use it.


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All township ordinances are provided here on the Docs & Forms page.


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Various pictures from around the township – click on an image to view larger

Benzie Area
Historical Museum


Crystal Lake
Summer Sunset


Crystal Lake
Winter Sunset


Township Hall &
Fire Department


Beautiful vista
in the township

Planning and Zoning  

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Benzonia Township was one of the first townships in Benzie County to adopt a Zoning Ordinance in the mid-1970’s and since then had three different ordinances until joining the County Planning and Zoning system in 1994. However, that relationship ended with the major budget cuts at the county in 2010 resulting in creation of the West Benzie Joint Planning Commission (WBJPC) by the Benzonia and Platte Township Boards in 2010. Since then, the two township boards adopted the WBJPC Zoning Ordinance covering both townships. The WBJPC was also formed as a five-person board with adoption of a Planning Commission Ordinance having all the powers and duties of a Planning Commission in the State of Michigan. Both townships have also adopted by reference the Benzie County Comprehensive Plan (found on this Web page), as amended, as the basis for zoning and planning within the WBJPC jurisdictional area.

The main contact for zoning and planning services and the WBJPC is housed within the Zoning/Planning Department of the Benzonia Township Offices – contact the Zoning Administrator shown on the Board page.


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The township has community trash day twice a year, once in May, and once in August. Watch for dates and times in Upcoming Events on the Home page. (In 2014, we were able to add an additional day to the yearly schedule using the money we saved by NOT sending out receipts for the paid taxes!)

Items we Do Not Accept: appliances containing Freon, auto batteries, tires, any chemicals or hazardous waste, motor oil, paint or thinners, or any yard waste, including clippings, brush, grass, etc.

Please bring your old household batteries (no car batteries) to the Benzonia township office to recycle them.

See the Benzie County Recycling and Solid Waste Department page for details about the program and the current collection dates.

Register to Vote  

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To register to vote, you must be:

  1. A U.S. citizen
  2. At least 18 years old by Election Day
  3. A resident of Michigan and the city or township where you are applying to register to vote


You can register to vote for federal, state and local elections by mail; at your county, city, or township clerk’s office; or by visiting any Secretary of State office.

In addition, agencies providing services through the Department of Human Services, the Department of Community Health and the Department of Licensing, and Regulatory Affairs offer voter registration services to their clients. Military recruitment centers also provide voter registration services.

You may also register at the same time you renew your driver’s license by mail. Eligible drivers receive a voter registration application in the mail with their driver’s license renewal information.


You must register at least 30 days before the election in which you want to vote.

Absentee Ballot Deadlines

If you want an absentee ballot mailed to you, your application must be received by 2 PM the Saturday before the election. Make your request early to allow for delivery time. A voter eligible to vote by absentee ballot also may vote in person at the clerk’s office any time up to 4 PM the day before the election. All absentee ballots must be received by the clerk’s office no later than 8 PM on Election Day.

More About Elections:

Information concerning an upcoming election is available on line, here:  Click on ELECTIONS then choose from there the information you want, including a sample ballot, deadlines, upcoming elections, and more.  

As soon as the ballots are available for a given election, you can obtain one at the Township Clerk's office as well as online.

See Also

Township Cemetery  

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The Benzonia Township Cemetery is located on Love Road just east of (behind) Shop ‘N Save at US-31. Gates are open from mid-April through December each year. Our Cemetery Sexton is available to arrange for a cemetery lot, schedule a burial, or answer general questions.

The Cemetery Ordinance is located in the Ordinances section of our Docs & Forms page.

Our new cemetery program provides a record all of those interred, pictures of the plots, as well as a map of each section. If you do not find what you are looking for below, please stop by the Township office.

Benzonia Township Cemetery map, as of 2/16/2017 – a full map of the cemetery showing sections, lots, and lots with unsold graves (PDF document, 296 kB, 14" x 23")

Report of those interred at the cemetery, as of 2/16/2017 (PDF document, 592 kB, 66 pages)

Maps of burials by section, as of 2/15/2017 (PDF documents)

Section A, B, and F Section C West Portion Burials Section G Burials
Section B Burials   Section D Burials   Section G Lot Owners
Section C Burials   Section E Burials   Section G Outline
Section C Outline   Section E East Burials   Section H Burials
Section C East Portion Burials   Section E West Burials    

Township Newsletter  

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Summer 2015 Summer 2017 Summer 2019
Winter 2015   Winter 2017   Winter 2019
Summer 2016   Summer 2018   Summer 2020
Winter 2016   Winter 2018   Winter 2020



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