Leelanau News and Events

Suttons Bay Dog Park To Open Saturday, Other Herman Park Updates

By Craig Manning | Sept. 15, 2023

It’s time to let the dogs out.

Such was the news at a Suttons Bay Township Board meeting Wednesday evening, where trustees approved the new Suttons Bay Township Dog Park for a soft opening this weekend. The park, which has been under construction at Suttons Bay’s Herman Park since May, is not entirely finished yet, but is far enough along that dog owners are now permitted to use part of the park for animal socializing and recreation. The Leelanau Ticker has the details, along with progress reports for other parts of Herman Park’s ambitious still-in-progress improvement efforts.

As designed, the new dog park will be broken into two sections: one for small dogs that weigh under 25 pounds, and another for larger dogs 26 pounds and up. According to Liz Mahaney, who has been leading the charge since the beginning, preparation for the small dog park is completely finished, while the large dog park is still awaiting some additional work.

In the meantime, the township board on Wednesday voted to approve a “soft opening” for the small dog park, which Mahaney says will involve use opportunities “for both large dogs and small dogs on a rotating basis.” The park will be open to large dogs on even-numbered days – including tomorrow (Saturday, September 16) – while smaller dogs will have the run of the place on odd-numbered days.

While Mahaney is hopeful the large park might be ready to open this fall, Township Supervisor Tom Nixon tells The Ticker that a spring 2024 date is more likely.

“The large dog park is needing more care for its soils,” Nixon explains. “There’s a lot of weeds in there, and we’re trying to establish a firmer foundation so that the park will have some longevity to it. It would be presumptuous on any of us to start running animals there right now. But the small dog park is ready, because it didn't require that kind of preparation. The structure of the soils underneath is fine, and the strength of the grass that was there was sufficient enough to for everybody to say ‘OK, that looks good, let’s open.’”

Nixon says the township’s soil specialist is working on a plan to eliminate weeds from the site without creating any risk to animals.

Nixon notes that, “if Mother Nature will cooperate,” the plan is to apply herbicide to the large dog park next week. Application of hydroseeding will follow, with the goal of growing enough healthy grass on the site that it stabilizes the soil.

Beyond soil and grass work, Mahaney says the Dog Park Ambassadors group, which raised funds for the project, still has a few other minor tasks left to complete, including planting a pair of shade trees, installing benches, and placing donation signs. Those steps will likely be completed in October. Mahaney also notes that the Ambassadors are planning to host an official grand opening celebration sometime next spring.

The dog park isn’t the only improvement project at Herman Park this summer. The park has also gotten a parking lot expansion, four new pickleball courts, and a new pump track for cyclists.

Per Nixon, the parking lot expansion – which added 38 new parking spots to the park’s existing count of 24 – is completely done. “Now, we’re going to be resealing and restriping the old portion of the parking lot,” he says. “That’s going to be taking place in another week or so, and the parties that are doing the work have graciously suggested that they can do the work by cutting the drive and the entry in half.”

That will allow the improvements to the old lot to be broken into two phases, which Nixon says will save the township from having to close the park.

Also complete is the park’s new pump track. In the cycling world, pump tracks provide a low-risk way for riders to gain proficiency with their mountain biking basics. Nixon says the rules for the track were approved by the township board at Wednesday’s meeting, and that the track should officially open to users within the next few weeks. The track will also be available to those on skateboards or scooters.

As for the new pickleball courts, which will bring Herman Park’s count from four to eight, Nixon says the court surfaces are finished and posts for the nets were being installed on Thursday. “But the funds that are available [for the courts] are not sufficient enough at this point to the entire exterior fence, which is 14 feet tall,” he notes, adding that the township “may be looking at a temporary means of opening the courts” while boosters raise more money for the project.

There’s also one more project coming soon: Thanks to a grant from DTE, Nixon says the township has money to plant 20 new trees. “Those will enhance and buffer some of the park from surrounding properties,” he says.

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