Cass parks turn the big 30

Published 11:15 am Saturday, May 13, 2006

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
Cass County's park system, established in 1976, turns 30 years old this year.
It encompasses more than 900 acres of parkland, varying in size from quarter-acre boat launches to the rugged 820-acre Dr. T.K. Lawless Park southeast of Vandalia.
Lawless Park boasts more than seven miles of leisure biking trails and 10 mlies of advanced mountain bike trails.
It consistently rates as one of Michigan's top mountain biking destinations thanks to its varied topography, from tight switchbacks, challenging slopes and natural obstacles to long straightaways.
A regional time trial attracts riders of all ages and abilities from across the state to race against the clock.
Inner tubing and cross-country skiing on seven miles of groomed trails are offered at Lawless even on winter nights under lights. Four lakes provide ice fishing.
Arthur Dodd Memorial Park in Sumnerville contains 51 acres and has been making headlines lately for a 12-year effort to restore meanders to the Dowagiac River for trout fishing finally coming to fruition. Dodd Park is also popular with canoeists.
Russ Forest Park, 15 acres along the Dowagiac Creek, is not only popular with horseback riders, it doubles as an open-air laboratory where county school districts, including Dowagiac, teach conservation.
Wyman explained how some parks, Lawless and Russ Forest, are funded by the county, while others, such as Dodd Park, Veterans and Beeson Park on M-62 and Stevens Park, a swimming area on Little Fish Lake, are maintained by the Road Commission. Wyman's office is at the Road Commission in Cassopolis.
The lifelong Cass County resident graduated from Marcellus High School and Olivet College and is the father of five children.
The video characterizes Russ Forest as a “nature-lover's paradise with its abundant plant life and acres of historic old-growth forest.”
Schools take advantage of that natural setting for Conservation Days in cooperation with Cass County Conservation District.
A conservation practice at Lawless Park dedicates fencerows to wildlife.
For soil conservation, a farmer suggested to Wyman last year using sawdust from a local mill to fill in washouts and slow soil erosion. “So far, so good,” he said.