County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Grass is Greener at Wilson State Park

New camp options and remodeling for future of park

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The grass really is greener at Wilson State Park. The grass had a little extra time to grow since the park was closed for most of 2020 due to delays with bathroom construction. While COVID takes the blame for most things in 2020, the delays are only partially due to the pandemic.

Supervisor Andy Saxton and Lead Ranger John Loy run the park along with seasonal staff. Loy commented, “It’s nice to be back to normal.” Saxton is still looking to fill 7 more seasonal ranger positions this year. (Over 18, please apply!)

The Park opened in April and has already had three full camp weekends. They are pleased to be open at 100% and welcoming what Saxton calls “happy campers.” Weekends are still the busiest times for Wilson State Park, but all state parks are seeing a higher volume of midweek campers.

The question had to be asked and Saxton laughed when asked if the teepee would ever be back. The teepee was a lodging option at the front of the park for many years. While not a teepee, Saxton did say that WSP was chosen along with 8 other state parks for alternative camping opportunities that could be yurts, domed structures, mini cabins, or camper cabins. Those options are in the works, and he has not yet heard exactly what options the park will receive.

The Park will also receive $100k towards the reconstruction of the beach house roof and logs. This money is from recreational passport dollars and historical trust funds.

The Wilson Brothers donated 35 acres of land on Budd Lake to the Village of Harrison in 1889 for a park. Later the city would hand over care of the park to the State of Michigan in the early 1920s. While under the City’s ownership it was known as Lakeside Park and when the state of Michigan took it over it was renamed Wilson State Park.

The Wilson Brothers moved their families to Harrison in 1881. Farwell Wilson commonly referred to as F.A. was later elected to the state legislature. The only Wilson to remain in Harrison he passed away at his home on Lake Street in 1896. William Hotchkiss “Stick” Wilson was the first mayor of Harrison. Their third business partner was their “Cousin Will”, William Henry Wilson. The Wilson’s also donated the land for the Clare County Fairgrounds which began in 1883.

Wilson Sate Park was a popular place for weddings, reunions, and other events.  Water carnivals became an annual event after the turn of the century.  Swimming competitions included Olympic swimmers and drew crowds over 10,000 to the park. 

Today, it is a modern campground with two new bathhouses, cabin rentals, and a beautiful beach. Upgrades this year include a second sanitation dump station which Saxton hopes will cut down on wait times for campers checking out and heading home.

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