Herald Journal, March 3, 2003
Kreitlow remembers park board years
By Lynda Jensen
Forty two years ago, county parks and public water accesses were nearly few and far between.
This changed when a core group of park board members assembled, which included soft spoken Howard Lake dairy farmer Willard Kreitlow, 80.
The team was a diverse group of people composed of Marcus Zumbrunner of Hasty, Bud Tischler, then editor of the Delano Eagle, Cokato banker Richard Peterson, Glen Fredell, Al Ney of Maple Lake, and Kreitlow, who considered himself a learner compared to the others, he said.
They were good people who were passionate and dedicated to creating public landings on area lakes, and buying land for county parks something that was unpopular at the time, Kreitlow said.
"We had very conservative and liberal ideas," he said.
They didn't always agree, but the free exchange of ideas and common purpose of serving the county carried them far, he said.
The first 20 years of the park board existence, of which Kreitlow was present, were controversial, he said.
Initially, the group worked on a shoestring for the first 14 years until an official planner was hired, he said.
Attitudes toward parks were different then, since people didn't care for the idea of buying land with public money, taking it off the tax rolls, and then letting it sit undeveloped, he said.
At that time, there was plentiful farm land and it seemed almost silly to some to buy land for park purposes.
In fact, some actually said that parks brought the value of their land down, he said.
"People just didn't like the idea of land being bought by the government," Kreitlow said.
Of course, times are different now, and attitudes about park land have come full circle with the past 20 years causing people to not only appreciate parks, but actually request them, he said.
The forethought and vision of the early park board members is paying off now in many ways, as young and old enjoy an extended system of parks.
"Our interest was not in intensive use parks, but preservation of roots of Wright County," he said.
Kreitlow remembers when Collinwood Park near Cokato, which is a premier park in Wright County, was nothing more than three or four farms.
Intensive use parks are those such as Memorial Park or Lions Park, owned and operated by the City of Howard Lake.
The legacy of parks that exist now are spread about Wright County, including the Ney Park and Nature Center near Maple Lake, and Lake Maria State Park near Silver Creek.
County parks benefit greatly from donated land, and property sold to the county for less than market value, he said.
For example, 80 acres of the Stanley Eddy park, located northwest in the county, was given in memory of Eddy by his parents. Eddy died in a tree trimming accident.
Just recently, a public access to the Crow River, a piece of land that previously was "very subject to development" was donated for county park purposes in French Lake Township.
Why did Kreitlow get involved? Because when he was young, he remembered hunting and fishing with few access problems, he said. "We didn't have to worry about trespassing."
"This was rapidly becoming something of the past," he said. "We were no longer welcome to hunt and fish."
Nowadays, there are public accesses to the Crow River and area lakes from the tireless work of many people, not just one, he said.
Park board people then and now are enthusiastic and are have pride in their work, he said.
Kreitlow is extremely modest about his involvement, however he has accrued an impressive list of awards given to him for his conservation efforts.
In fact, the Wright County Board recently renamed Highland Hill, a sledding hill north of Howard Lake, the Willard Kreitlow Winter Recreation Area.
This includes being recognized by Gov. Rudy Perpich in 1990 with a certificate of commendation, having a room named after him at the Ney Nature Center, being observed for 75 years of volunteer service by the Wright County and Soil, Water and Conservation District (SWCD), and parks commission, being given the outstanding conservation award in 1994 by the SWCD, being given another award by the Tri-County Conservation Board from the Clearwater River Watershed Board, and being recognized as conservationist of the year by the Minnesota Conservation Federation in 1995.
He couldn't have done it without the encouragement and cooperation of his wife, Dorothy, he said.
Kreitlow will be honored by the Wright County Board this week for his 42 years served on the park board.
Kreitlow points to the Ney Nature Center as a highlight of his 42 year tenure, although he is quick to point out that it was made possible by other people.
The Ney Park Nature Center impresses and educates more than a thousand fifth graders each year, in addition to several other projects related to various community education groups, 4-H, and Boy Scouts, among others.
In 2002, Ney Park was selected for the second year in a row to be the host site of the Leopold Education Project.
This project is an innovative educational program based on the writings of the legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, said Marc Mattice of Ney Park.
"The goal is to install a love, respect, and admiration for the land," Mattice said.
Those in attendance included k-12 educators, conservation leaders, natural resource professionals, 4-H and Scout leaders.
The Parks Department sponsored eight programs during the winter of 2001 at Ney Park and one program at Collinwood Park that were open to the general public and designed for the family.
They were: Birds of Prey (hosted by the U of M Raptor Center), Exploring the Winter Sky, Moonlight Cross-Country Ski, Fish and Fish Management, Collinwood Classic, Woodworking For Wildlife, White-Tailed Deer, and Winter Bird Feeding.
In March, Ney Park and Nature Center will host two activities, Center, outdoor survival workshop Sunday, March 9, (no charge), and wood working for wildlife, Sunday, March 23.
For reservations and more information, call (763) 682-7693 prior to March 14.
The Ney Nature Center will be open to the public every Saturday in March, noon to 4:00 p.m.
The public is welcome to ski/hike or snowshoe the trails, examine wildlife mounts/displays, watch a nature video, or read a book.
Legacy of the park board members
a network of parks
There is a network of Wright County parks that include the following:
COUNTY RECREATIONAL PARKS
Beebe Lake Regional Park
Located six miles east of Buffalo on CSAH 34.
This park features a swimming beach, reservable shelter, picnic area, 1.2 miles of hiking trail, volleyball, modern restrooms, group camp, fishing dock, and creative play area.
Park is open May through September and has a caretaker on duty. Fees are charged for use of shelter and group camp.
Clearwater/Pleasant Regional Park
It is located one mile north of Annandale off State Highway 24 and CSAH 39.
This park contains 210 acres between Clearwater and Pleasant Lakes, with lakeshore on both.
Park land is developed along Pleasant Lake, with features including reservable shelter, swimming beach, trails, picnic area, parking, public access, creative play area, modern restroom, and volleyball.
The park is open May through September and has a caretaker on duty. Fees charged for shelter rental.
Collinwood Regional Park
It is located three miles southwest of Cokato off State Highway 12 (road signs are located on Highway 12 just east of Dassel).
This lakeside park of 308 acres has a 49-unit overnight campground with electric hookups and showers.
Other features include camp facilities, picnic area with shelter and toilets, swimming beach, creative play area, 5 miles of ski/hike trails, and boat launch.
Fees are charged for camping and boat launch, which are open from early May through September; there is a six month on-site manager, mid-April to mid-October.
For specific information call the park manager at (320) 286-2801, For off-season information, call (763) 682-7693.
This park is located near the Mississippi River off CSAH 75, two miles west of Monticello.
This attractive picnic area on the river features 170 acres of hardwoods and pine plantings, a boat launch, two miles of paved hiking/ski trails, DNR fishing pier, and toilets.
At junction of CSAH 35 and 4, five miles north of Cokato. This wooded picnic area overlooks Mud Lake and includes boat launch, toilets, and fishing dock.
Oscar and Anna Johnson Park
It is located on Dog Lake five miles southwest of Waverly.
This popular spot for picnics features a picnic area, swimming beach, boat launch, and toilets.
It is located off the Great River Road (CSAH 39 and Wright County Road 42) one mile south of Elk River.
This 70-acre park on the Mississippi River features a picnic area with two reservable shelters, two miles of paved trails, play field, handicapped accessible play structure, toilets, prairie restoration area, and canoe access.
Fees are charged for use of shelters. The park is open May through September.
Two miles northeast of Annandale off CSAH 39, on the north end of 837-acre Cedar Lake.
This lake side park features a 51-unit overnight campground with electric hookup and showers, attractive swimming beach, creative play area, hiking trail, picnic grounds with shelter and volleyball court, boat launch, fishing pier, and modern toilets.
Fees are charged for camping, boat launch and shelter.
The park is open early May through September with an on-site manager from mid-April to mid-October.
For specific site information call manager at (320) 274-8870; for off-season information call (763) 682-7693.
This park is located off CSAH 9, two miles north of Waverly.
A scenic canoe access, this park has over one mile of river frontage, quiet picnic area, primitive canoe campsite, and historic memorial.
It is located on the east side of Limestone Lake, three miles south of Hasty; follow the signs off of CSAH 8.
This site provides a pleasant picnic area and a fishing platform.
This park is named after Zumbrunnen named in this story. It is located on CSAH 8, a half mile south of 1-94.
This picnic site, which contains a one-mile hiking trail, is a favorite stopping place for commuters.
COUNTY RIVER SYSTEM PARKS
Wright County is also known for its system of parks along the North Fork and main branch of the Crow River, being a state designated canoe route.
Four miles north of Highway 12 on CSAH 5; located seven miles downstream of Wildlife Park.
Features of this park include picnic area, canoe launch, toilet, and primitive canoe camp site.
Bill Anderson Memorial
Located on CSAH 7, four miles north of Howard Lake, seven miles downstream of Albright's Mill.
This Crow River site offers two canoe campsites accessible by river only, picnic area, sliding hill, and canoe access.
It is located four miles south of Buffalo off State Highway 25, 10 miles downstream of Humphrey Arends Park.
Situated among large pines, this park has picnic sites, canoe/boat channel access to river, toilet, and canoe campsite.
In Hanover, from CSAH 19 take Riverview Road to its end.
This 17-acre park has 1/4 mile of river frontage, picnic area, canoe camping site, and toilets.
It is located four miles north of Cokato, off CSAH 3.
This small river park offers canoe access, two canoe campsites and a picnic table.
COUNTY PARK RESERVES
Stanley Eddy Memorial Park
It is located in French Lake Township along CSAH 2.
This park reserve is made up of three separate units totaling 655 acres with scenic rolling hills, lakes, and marshes. The Northern unit has four miles of ski/hike trails, picnic sites, and toilet, while the Southern unit has 3.5 miles of ski/hike trails, picnic sites and toilets.
Robert Ney Memorial Park
This park is located off CSAH 8, 1-1/2 miles north of Maple Lake.
In this park, a combination of marsh and forest occupy 360 acres providing varied wildlife habitat.
The site includes a memorial chapel, picnic area, access to Lake Mary, 3.5 miles of ski/hike trails, and is home to the Wright County Parks Environmental Education Center.
For more information on reserving the nature center, call (763) 682-7693.
Carl Johnson Park
This park is located at the western end of Wright County; follow signs off CSAH 35.
It is composed of 40 acres of mature hardwood timber with several wooded ravines provide a popular short one mile hiking trail.
Harry Larson Park
It is located four miles west of Monticello off Wright County Road 111.
It is a beautiful hiking spot, with 170 acres of rolling terrain dotted with pothole marshes, a mature oak forest with pockets of big tooth aspen, two miles of ski/hike trails, toilets, and a small picnic area.
COUNTY WAYSIDE RESTS
It is located on CSAH 75, one mile north of 1-94 in Clearwater.
This six-acre park contains red cedars and oaks, overlooking the Clearwater River and has a picnic area.
It is located on Highway 12 west of Howard Lake.
This historic monument also includes a picnic shelter.
Fairhaven Mill Historic Wayside
Located in Fairhaven Township off CSAH 2.
This is the site of a historic gristmill and has picnic sites, benches, and access to Mill Pond a popular fishing spot.
Lake access and picnic area are on the south side of the lake, follow signs off state Highway 25 south of Buffalo.
Picnic sites and an earth ramp are located on the north end of the lake; follow signs off CSAH 8 south of Hasty.
Boat access and picnic area located off CSAH 8 northwest of Waverly.
East Maple Lake
Concrete ramp, trailer parking and picnic site located on far east end of Maple Lake on CSAH 37.
Located on the east side of Lake Moses. Concrete ramp and trailer parking.