County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Wilson State Park Sees Major Refurbishing

The Jewel Hiding in Harrison’s Wooded Back Yard


HARRISON – Some substantial renovations have been underway at Wilson State Park over the past couple years. In 2020 the park saw a complete re-do of its bathroom buildings. And this year the park’s pavilion has been undergoing some restoration and refurbishment as well. Park Lead Ranger John Loy spoke to the Cleaver recently about all the changes.

“We’ve been blessed the last couple years,” Loy said. “We got two brand new bathroom buildings two years ago.”

Loy said he doesn’t know the exact monetary value of the project is, but it includes a brand new roof and brand new electric service. He explained that the work is constrained to the building’s original footprint.

“It’s historical so it has to stay the way it is,” Loy said. “It’s all log frame construction, so they’re redoing the log timbers that were rotted. They’ve opened up the old changing courts, with anticipation of later on doing something with them, whether it be a vendor or there’s been talk of using it for venues: weddings, things like that.”

He said the outside will be stripped, and it will all get re-stained.

“We actually just got more funding to redo the windows and the window casings,” Loy said. “The company that’s doing it, that’s what they do is historical building restorations.”

Unfortunately, the work done on the bathrooms was not done to that same standard, and now roofing repair work is needed on both bathrooms. But, that work is being taken in stride as well, and will be brought up to the desired quality.

“We’ve worked really hard on turning the park around,” Loy said. “I’m local, my supervisor’s local – born and raised here – and it’s always been a big deal.”

As far as park usage, the park’s visitor numbers are up, way up even over pre-pandemic numbers.

“Consecutively, about 15% for the three years before COVID,” Loy said.  “We closed for the year COVID hit to redo the bathrooms. And the more people we can bring into our park, it bleeds out into the community, and that’s what we want.”

All these changes come at a cost, and fortunately the state is seeing Wilson State Park as the right place to invest these days.

“I don’t know if it’s our turn in the state cycle, but usually the bigger parks get more attention,” Loy said. “We’re like the second oldest park in the state. In 2020, we turned 100 years old, and in 2019, the state parks system [whose way was paved by the Michigan State Parks Commission] turned 100 years old.”

With the park having been established in 1920, of course that means the state system is thinking in historic terms, which puts Wilson State Park top of mind.


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