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Next year, campers and visitors to Wilson State Park will have a more pleasant experience with the addition of two new bath houses. Demolition of one of the former bathrooms in the south part of the park took place last Friday, Sept. 6. The other restroom is scheduled for demotion soon. New restrooms will be built and completed by December of this year and ready for campers when the park opens in May.
The new buildings are one of the first projects at the park using Recreational Passport funds. Money for this fund is derived from the sale of the Recreation Passport which replaced the resident Motor Vehicle Permit, or window sticker, for state park entrance. The passport is required for entry to state parks, recreation areas and boating access sites.
The old bath houses were built in 1949 and 1950 and remodeled in 1972. While historic aspects of the park are appreciated, no one really enjoys a historic bathroom! The new facilities will be built on the same footprint as the old and will have four shower rooms, a family lavatory that is ADA accessible, women’s and men’s lavatories, and a utilities storage area.
The change is timely. Park supervisor Andy Saxton said the park has had its best season in 10 years. Saxton has a 20-year history with the Michigan park system and was named supervisor at Wilson State Park in June. Once the weather became summerlike there were seven consecutive weekends of full camp. He also attributes the addition of Jump Island, a water trampoline park. Operated as a concessionaire with the park system, Jump Island brought thousands of additional visitors to Wilson State Park. A portion of the use fees were given back to the park and it is hoped the water feature will operate again next year.
“June was a wash but after the weather cleared 15,000 additional users were in the park in July,” said Saxton. “That’s our goal, more users in the park.”
This year the park also had a great staff of energic, local youth who join the one seasonal full-time and three full-time employees. A few new pieces of equipment and a new tractor made work a little easier this season, too. Saxton said all these factors made it a great year at the park and hopefully will bring visitors back again next year.
At one time state parks were on the chopping block when budget cuts needed to be made at the state. The funding gaps have been filled in by the Recreational Passport funds.