New dog park opens in Cassopolis

Published 5:15 pm Monday, November 20, 2023

CASSOPOLIS — More than a dozen of man’s best friends were unleashed Saturday morning as a new component to Don Horne Park opened for the community.

The Village of Cassopolis celebrated the grand opening of a new dog park at Don Horne Park. The park – funded entirely by grant monies – features three fenced-in enclosures for community members to enjoy with their dogs. One enclosure is for small dogs, another for large dogs and the third is a trail for community members and pets to walk through. The park features a pavilion, water bowls, “chuck-it” sticks and trash bins and plastic bags to dispose of waste.

Cassopolis’ Department of Public Works created the trail and planted trees and Martin Fencing installed the fences in the park. Village Manager Emilie LaGrow said the design and layout were inspired by years of venturing to area dog parks with her dog, Milo.

“I started going to a lot of different dog parks and seeing things that we really liked,” she said. “‘This one has tons of space with hills for us to run on, that’s great.’ ‘This one has a trail through the woods. How great is that?’ This one has tennis balls and chuck-it sticks for when I forget them.’ ‘This one has benches and seats and a Pavilion.’ So just kind of picking up some of those things as we went to the dog parks together. It’s the little things.”

According to LaGrow, the park was made possible thanks to the $50,000 the village was awarded from the Neighborhood Enhancement Program offered by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The NEP aims to financially assist high-impact, innovative, neighborhood housing-oriented activities that benefit low and moderate income areas and residents. The village has been awarded NEP grants in the past to pay for exterior improvements to single-family homes in the village as well as for amenities such as the skate park at Clisbee Park last year.

LaGrow said a dog park has long been on the list of amenities the village has wanted to implement and with the planned housing development near the park and recent improvements to the park, the timing was just right.

“This is a perfect time because we just did some upgrades to the park last year so this is great timing to put this in,” she said. “We’re gonna put a neighborhood in here and we can fund (the dog park) with grant funds. The timing was just right this year for it to be our public amenity.”

Several community members attended the grand opening, including Donald Obermesik and his dog “Bandit.”

“We’ve had this park a long time and have been slowly developing it,” he said. “This unutilized part of the park was a wonderful location our manager came up with and developed and we’ve got the thumbs up for. Even before the grand opening, I came out here and there were many, many people utilizing it already. It’s definitely another jewel in the crown.”

The opening of the dog park was an exciting cap to the week for the village following the grand opening of the Hydro aluminum recycling plant and the chamber of commerce awards ceremony Thursday and high school senior Seth Kalina’s fundraiser on Friday.

For Obermesik, who has worked in Cassopolis for 27 years as a member of the police department, the park is the latest example of Cassopolis’ positive momentum.

“If you look at this community, there’s a lot of two, three,four-generation families. So for it to finally start growing and be the county seat it should be and to be a place where the people who have stayed here during the hard times are now getting rewarded is probably the biggest thing. That’s appreciative.”