Council Rescinds Renaming Park After Paul Cousins


At its Jan 9, 2023, meeting, the Dexter City Council rescinded its decision to rename First Street Park (aka Horseshoe Park) to Paul Cousins Park as a tribute to the city’s late advocate and environmentalist.

The reason? It’s not a big enough memorial for Mr. Cousins, who was instrumental in the development of Dexter since his arrival in 1963.

During the council’s public comments, Dexter resident and Planning Commissioner Chet Hill expressed dismay over the park’s renaming. “It’s a little tribute. Paul Cousins deserves much more than that for the things he’s done for the city. He was huge forever.”

“I would hope that naming that park doesn’t preclude doing something more significant. And my suggestion would be Mill Creek Park South,” added Hill. “What you see now is wonderful and is in part, at least a major part, the result of Paul Cousins being involved with the community. And maybe something more significant like that could be done to honor the man.”

Paul’s son, Jonathan Cousins, also spoke, expressing his family’s disapproval of the chosen site to bear his father’s name. “My dad loved Horseshoe Park. But he loved it because it was called ‘First Street Park.’ He thought it was quirky and funny because there is no First Street.”

“I’m gonna let you know right now that from my father’s surviving children, if you all want that park with horseshoe pits and a portable john as my dad’s legacy in this town, then we refuse to have you do that. And we will do whatever we have to do. And we don’t want anything named if that’s what you’re going to do.”

The council does not usually respond to public comment directly, but Councilmember Griffin made a motion, which the council supported, to add an agenda item to reconsider renaming the park after Cousins.

Councilmember Griffin was absent at the Dec 27 meeting when the original decision was made. “My personal thought, as shared by others, was that it was perhaps a bit too soon to decide exactly how to (honor Paul Cousins),” said Griffin during the discussion.

“I absolutely think everybody at this table has the best intentions and the fondest feelings for Paul and wants to do what’s right by him,” she added.

Councilmembers Hubbard and Aldag expressed that their initial impression was that the family supported the idea at the time.

“I don’t think I would have been comfortable voting for it without that knowledge,” said Hubbard. “I personally feel like I made a mistake at the last meeting.”

Mayor Keough told the council that the motion to rename the park didn’t mean that was the only way to honor Paul Cousins. Mayor Keough favored a delay in rescinding the council’s decision until a firm plan could be brought forth.

Councilmember Michels voted against renaming First Street Park after Paul Cousins in December. “The thing that troubled me is that the Parks Commission said we want to honor Paul. We’d like some time to investigate it more, and then the council said no, we’re going to do this now.”

Councilmember Semifero introduced the motion to rename the park. He reminded the council his reason for doing so was that First Street Park was the sole effort of Paul Cousins. All the many other initiatives Paul was so instrumental in involved collaboration.

The council passed the motion to rescind renaming First Street Park to Paul Cousins Park by a vote of five to one.

Photo: First Street Park, aka Horseshoe Park. Photo by Doug Marrin.

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