sRockford Community

Rockford new home to Kent County Sheriff’s Mounted Division

November 24, 2011 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA An abandoned 100-year-old barn in Rockford—now renovated and rebuilt to house eight horses, equipment and feed—is just the first phase of the Kent County Sheriff’s Mounted Division complex. On Thursday, Nov. 17, a crowd of city and county officials and the public heard what to expect within the next year for a compound that will include a public observation area, classrooms, an indoor arena, a stable for over a dozen horses, a training obstacle course and wooded riding trails. Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma spoke before onlookers in the chilly air of the structure, describing the funding of the training center and home of the mounted unit as an example of public and private partnership. The house, barn and 30-plus-acre property at 4687 Kroes Street (east of Rockford High School) were donated to Kent County in the 1990s. Stelma, who initiated the creation of the county’s mounted law enforcement unit in 2005, called the creation of the division another example of multi-jurisdiction cooperation. “It was very evident no one agency could fund a mounted division,” Stelma explained. Housed at the Kent County Honor Camp, the division became homeless in January of this year. “When Camp O’Mally closed, that closed the mounted division,” Stelma explained. Sixth months ago Roger Sabine, director of the Kent County Parks and Recreation Department, invited members of the sheriff’s department to walk through the property as a possible new home for the equine law enforcement unit. “When we walked around the property, we were sort of breathless,” Stelma said of his officers’ reaction to the proposal. Today the division proudly calls Rockford home and has a bright, exciting vision for the future of the unit. “This goes way beyond law enforcement,” said Chad Wieber, project advisor. Wieber was put in charge of development of the mounted unit in September two years ago when it became clear that the duties were too much to incorporate into those of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department (KCSD) Traffic Division. “Our outreach will be outstanding and go beyond search and rescue,” said Wieber, adding that the training center will “certainly be an important facility,” with an indoor arena that will be available for high school equestrian teams. He said the classrooms, stables and […]