FAIRMONT - Believe it or not, Martin County has only had a county park system since the 1970s.
What began with federal, state and county funds is now a county-only endeavor. There are six parks, but their names and locations may be better fodder as trivia than common household knowledge.
"We have some nice parks that some people don't know about," says Martin County Engineer Kevin Peyman, who helps the park board oversee the system. "We would encourage people to get out and visit these parks."
Cedar Hanson Park in rural Trimont is the busiest of Martin County’s parks. It features the most hookups for electrical and water service. The park system would like to add showers to the site.
The first four parks purchased by the county were Perch Lake Park near Truman, Cedar Hanson Park near Trimont, Bright Lake Park near Ceylon and Timberlane Park on South Silver and Iowa Lakes.
Wolter Park near East Chain was given to the county by Holy Family Catholic Church.
Klessig Park, on Iowa Lake near the border, rounds out the list.
The parks initially were to be developed and maintained by community and service groups close to the respective parks. The original funding could not be used for development. But in 1975, concerns about vandalism and disrepair led to a park maintenance program and a county park board.
There are more than 230 acres of county park land. Each park has its own characteristics. There are well-developed parks: Perch Lake Park and Cedar Hanson Park; small parks: Klessig and Wolter; and parks that are natural and primitive: Bright Lake Park and Timberlane Park. All of the parks are adjacent to a lake.
The parks are open 24 hours. There is no charge for use during the day. At the parks that have them, water and power are turned off prior to winter.
Perch Lake Park made news recently when the county learned a crew of workers funded by a grant from Conservation Corps Minnesota would be heading to the park to complete some projects and maintenance. Among other things, the crew was slated to fix a fence and work on some washout dams.
Bruce Goraczkowksi, chairman of the park board, was helping that crew with chores last week when contacted for this article.
"I think we're heading in a really good direction [with our parks]," he said. "I do think there are a number of other things we could do for the parks. Personally, I'd like to get more community groups involved with them."
He noted the contributions of a 4-H club that takes care of Wolter Park through mowing and maintenance. The club also has installed playground equipment.
To dispel any doubts, the Martin County park system more than welcomes donations of time, talent and fresh funding.
The park system operates on about $110,000 per year. The funds are used for operations and maintenance.
A park caretaker works six months per year, hauling away garbage, mowing the grass and performing other tasks. The county plans to extend the caretaker's hours next year, making it an eight-month job. With more time, the caretaker will be able to work on park maps, upgrade information on the county Web site and work with groups - such as 4-H and churches - on adopting parks.
Peyman and Goraczkowksi say the park board has outlined some wish-list improvements based on, among other things, the comments of campers.
o Among the priorities is a "comfort station" at Cedar Hanson Park. This would include showers and sinks with running water.
o At Perch Lake Park, the county would like to add a dump station, as well as more electrical and water hookups for campers.
o Finally, at Bright Lake Park, the park board is interested in adding defined camp sites.
Cedar Hanson is the busiest park in the county. It can accommodate up to 38 campers with electrical and water hookups. Another section of the park is used for "primitive" camping, which means tents only.
Campers at county parks pay $20 per night for sites with hookups, $10 for primitive sites. The parks do not take reservations for camp sites. (People can reserve park shelters for a nominal fee.)
At Perch Lake Park, there are nine hookups for campers.
Peyman said the county has volunteers who camp for free at these two parks during the summer. They collect fees and help keep an eye on things.
These two main camping parks are most used, of course, on the main summer holidays/weekends - Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.
Peyman notes that the county is not looking to add any new parks, but funding still remains limited, and even a little short. Anyone with thoughts on how to improve the parks, or who may wish to donate time or money, may contact Peyman at (507) 235-3347, ext. 4222.
For more details on the park system, visit: www.co.martin.mn.us/Parks/parksmain.htm