Dowagiac celebrates Laylin Park dedication

Published 11:10 am Monday, July 18, 2022

DOWAGIAC — Extended family from across the country were on hand for Leon and Shirley Laylin as Laylin Park took on its new name.

Leon and Shirley have both served the Dowagiac community on large and small scales – publicly and privately – and fostered others to carry on that gift of love and community service. Water Tower Park certainly stood tall as a landmark name, but moving forward, Laylin Park will stand as a reminder of a legacy of love.

Mayor Lyons shared a story of how his working relationship began with both Shirley and Leon and how their friendship began, grew and deepened. The Laylins did not seek-out a life of leadership, but they were blessed with those skills, for which others sought tutelage and mentorship.  They did, however, seek ways to contribute, share their knowledge and skills, and build others up. They sought that, just because they were good humans, being good to other humans.

City Manager Kevin Anderson shared his thoughts on parks and public spaces.

“Parks are not about me, they are not about you, and they are about us. Parks are about community; Parks consist of gardens and art, ballfields and basketball courts, playgrounds and picnic tables, benches and birds, shade and sunshine, trails and fishing holes and boat launches and pavilions. Parks are quiet and noisy and open and accessible. Parks are places that are free and places to be free.

“But a park is meaningless without people. Parks are for community gatherings, playing sport together, picnics, conversations, and walks with friends. Parks are for family gatherings, for birthdays, anniversaries, quinceaneras, graduations and weddings. Parks are for moments to be alone, in community; to read a good book, to listen to the wind and the birds and to commune with the wonders of the world. 

“Parks are places for old friends to meet and for new friends to be made. Parks are places our youngest and oldest to share each other’s smiles. But like all people and places, parks are not stagnant; Parks are for the community and must continually reflect the needs and desires of the community. It is more than appropriate that ground we are standing on is no longer named for a thing, but is named for a family that have and continue to live for and in community.  Laylin Park, Dowagiac, Michigan. The name speaks volumes.”

Anderson was also pleased to announce the grant program renovation preparations for Laylin Park are moving along. Twenty stakes were visible in the ground, showing where trees are slated to be planted near one of the two pavilions. State approval has been granted to acquire quotes and begin work on the basketball courts much earlier than anticipated. 

While the city is awaiting construction, colorful games have been painted in and lights installed at the pavilion. The character, look, feel and the use of this park for the next generation will grow to meet the needs of the neighborhoods that use it.