Improvements in the works for Arthur Dodd Park

Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 10, 2015

Arthur Dodd Memorial Park in Cass County is in line to receive upgrades.

Arthur Dodd Memorial Park in Cass County is in line to receive upgrades.

While people often say “the third time is the charm,” it only took the Cass County Parks Department two cracks to secure state funding to make a series of improvements to the riverside grounds of Arthur Dodd Memorial Park.

The county was recently selected as the recipient of a $375,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund, which be used to pay for various improvements to the Niles park ground, located next to the Dowagiac River.

Per the terms of the grant application, which was approved by the county in March, the DNR will provide $277,500 worth of funding for the project, with the county fronting a 26 percent match, amounting to $97,500.

Among the planned upgrades to the 51-acre park is the establishment of a water trail along the half-mile stretch of river located on the property, complete with a new universally assessable kayak and canoe launch, interpretive signage and a new bridge, said Parks Director Scott Wyman.

“You’ll be able to travel down the Dowagiac River a little more efficiently,” Wyman said.

The funding will also pave the path for another longstanding ambition to construct a camping area for the park, complete with two cabins, picnic grills and fire rings, along with increased parking. The area falls in line with the Dodd Park master plan, which calls for the construction of up to 10 cabins in future years — though the department is being conservative by only electing to build the two to start off with, Wyman said.

“I believe in my heart they will be really popular, and we will be expanding sooner rather than later,” he said. “But we need to see how it goes first.”

Both the water trail and camping area will be ADA-compliant, allowing visitors of all abilities to enjoy what Dodd park has to offer, the parks director said.

Work on the new facilities should be completed within two years, per the requirements of the DNR grant.

Constituting 90 percent of public access to the Dowagiac River, the largest cold-water river system in southwest Michigan, the Niles park offers a lot of value to fishermen, kaykers and other water recreation enthusiasts, Wyman said. With the planned demolition of the Pucker Street Dam and the benefits that would bring to the river system, the parks department is making moves now to accommodate a potential increase in traffic.

“We’re being proactive, rather than reactive,” he said.

The parks director said he was delighted to receive news the county would receive money for the Dodd project, and thanked the various elected officials and grant writers who helped his department get the ball rolling.

“We’re excited,” Wyman said. “For a small department like ours, we’re always looking to leverage county monies into something greater. This grant is an example of that.”