Horseshoe Park in Dexter Renamed “Paul Cousins Park”


Dexter’s least-known city park may become one of its best-known with the renaming of First Street Park to Paul Cousins Park.

“I believe the park is a place that was important to Paul, a park that he personally enjoyed,” said Councilmember Joe Semifero in an email. “Naming the park after him makes sense to a lot of people to commemorate Paul and a lifetime of contributions to Dexter.”

Mr. Semifero introduced the motion to the city council at its Dec. 27, 2022, meeting to rename the park in honor of Paul Cousins. The council approved the motion. Semifero was on the Village Council in 2006 when Paul pushed for the park.

Ironically, you’ll find First Street Park (aka Horseshoe Park) off Second St, where Edison St ends. Head toward the railroad tracks. Cousins spearheaded the initiative to turn the acre of land into a park specifically for the Dexter Ringers Horseshoe Club, which Cousins joined after retiring from teaching in 1983. In addition to the 12 horseshoe pits, the park is designed for picnicking, with a portable toilet available.

Since its inception, Horseshoe Park has aged and needs an upgrade, which is included in Dexter’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Councilmember Wa Hubbard stated during the discussion that renaming it after Cousins could be the impetus to start that process.

“We have talked about highlighting this park, and I think this creates a really nice opportunity to start that conversation,” said Hubbard. “It provides us an opportunity, if we approve this and have a dedication, to really get the community out to see where it is and to see why he wanted it there and just bring awareness to it in a way that we haven’t done before.”

Councilmember Sanam Arab noted the special place Horseshoe Park held in Paul’s heart and the considerable effort he put into creating it. “Paul really spent time promoting this park, and it’s sort of his park,” said Arab. “I’m fully supportive of renaming the park.”

Councilmember Zach Michels was not against renaming the park, but he wanted to hold off until the Parks & Rec Commission had time to consider other ways to commemorate Cousins. Michels noted Paul was instrumental in other outdoor initiatives, such as the formation of Mill Creek Park, the city trails, and the area where he taught his outdoor lab for Dexter High School.

Cousins passed away on Dec. 9, 2022, and he is missed by the community. Since his arrival in 1963 to teach biology at Dexter High School, Paul has had a hand in just about every major decision that has made the city into what it is today. And that’s not to mention the thousands of everyday things Paul did unseen and uncounted that make a close-knit community.

In a Sep. 1, 2015, Ann Arbor Observer article, local writer Nancy Clay tells how Horseshoe Park came to be. In 1978, a group held a horseshoe tournament behind Klapperich Welding on Ann Arbor St., where the Bluewater Bldg is today. The gathering was so much fun they continued and quickly outgrew the space.

The Dexter Ringers, as they called themselves, moved in behind the fire station, which is Mill Creek Park North today. After about ten years there, they bounced over behind the bowling alley, where the A.R. Brouwer offices are today. When the owner wanted to expand in 2006, the Ringers got bumped again, with no place to throw. Enter Paul Cousins.

Clay writes how Cousins help created the park:

“The city owned some land at the end of Edison St. bordering the railroad tracks,” Cousins says. “It was just a place where the city dumped stuff, brush and things like that. We thought it might work for some horseshoe pits.”

It did. “Once we got the go-ahead, some of us had tractors and other equipment, and we started clearing stuff out and pushing dirt around,” (Dexter Ringer member Mark Amsdill recalls.) “At the time, Busch’s was building its new store, and Paul arranged for us to get about 110 yards of dirt from them, so we got the land leveled up. The guys from Cribley Drilling came down and dug us ten pits.”

For the Dexter Ringers, it has always been less about pitching horseshoes and more about getting together, talking, and laughing, you know, the stuff that makes a good community. That’s pretty much the heart of Paul Cousins.

Photo by Doug Marrin

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