Herald JournalHerald Journal, March 7, 2005

The jewel of Camden Township: Baylor Regional Park

By Jenni Sebora
Staff Writer

Close in proximity and offering many amenities, Baylor Park is a jewel in Camden Township.

Located at the south end of the township, Baylor Park covers 201 acres and is adjacent to Eagle Lake.What's in it for YOU?

The park is named after Henry Baylor, a farmer and original owner of the lands on which the park is located. It offers a wide variety of activities and features, including camping, fishing, playgrounds, a swimming beach, walking trail, horseshoe pits, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, paddle boats, a ball field, and picnic area. The park is also home to the Onan Observatory.

The former Henry Baylor farm was purchased by Carver County in 1971 through a federal housing and urban development block grant of $230,000. The park’s first development plan was adopted by the Carver County Board in 1973.

A master development plan was prepared, and Baylor Park became a Metropolitan Regional Park in 1975. Lake Minnewashta and Lake Waconia parks are also part of the Carver County Parks system.

The park offices for all three parks, including Baylor, are now located in the public works building in Cologne. There are caretakers that live year-round in the house at Baylor Park, Parks Director Marty Walsh said.

Community room

In 1935, the Henry Baylor barn was constructed and has been remodeled to house a reservable community room with kitchen facilities. The room is heated, air conditioned, and fully enclosed, ideal for gatherings, such as graduations, weddings and reunions, Carver County Parks Coordinator Lenny Schmitz said. Restrooms and an outdoor deck are included also.

Schmitz noted that the community room can seat about 100 people for eating, and groups, such as, scout groups, have rented the room for activities such as lock-ins, where they sleep in the community room and use the outdoor features as well.

“There are discounted rental rates for nonprofit groups to use the community room,” Schmitz said.

Campgrounds

The campground features 50 campsites, 35 with water and electrical hook-ups and 15 primitive campsites. There is also a group camping area. Shower and restroom facilities are also available.

“People from as near a distance as four miles or less camp at Baylor Park,” Camden Township Clerk Roger Sauerbrey said.

And if people are looking for a quiet time to camp, Sunday through Thursday is typically quiet in the campgrounds, Schmitz said.

Picnic shelters

Two reservable picnic shelters play host to many events also. Both shelters have picnic tables, grills, and water and electrical service. The beach shelter overlooks Eagle Lake, and the prairie shelter overlooks the park grounds and cattail marsh.

Beach area and boating

The Eagle Lake beach area is the place to swim and play too. A swimming beach water curtain was installed in 1993 to improve swimming conditions, Schmitz said.

For more water fun, the beach area also features a water play structure, and a beach house is available with restrooms and a changing area.

If fishing is what visitors like, a new fishing pier was installed with the financial help from a grant from the Department of Natural Resources, Walsh said.

A boat ramp for access to Eagle Lake is located outside the park. Paddleboats can be rented from the park office as well. Life vests are provided.

Hiking and skiing

Park visitors can enjoy nature from the nearly quarter mile long floating boardwalk through the cattail marsh or hike four miles of trails through a maple and basswood forest and prairie area.

In the winter, the trails are groomed for skiing, or people can also enjoy snowshoeing off-trail. Ski equipment and snowshoes are available for rent from the park office.

The trails and park also play host to high school and alumni cross country meets and a fun run.

In August, a family fun day is held, featuring a fun run with NYA Central school’s cross country team, Schmitz said.

“The kids’ race, and a high school and alumni run takes place also,” Schmitz said.

Maple syruping

Syrup cooking demonstrations are conducted each spring in the park’s operating maple syrup shack.

This year the maple syruping open house will be conducted Sat., March 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors can take a hike in the woods and learn how a maple tree is tapped, stop by the maple shack for a hands-on experience of how maple syrup is processed, and sample fresh maple syrup over ice cream. To add to the open house event, the Carver County library staff will be telling stories.

“This (maple syruping open house) is a family-oriented event,” Schmitz said.

During maple syrup processing time, which is usually in March, the park can also be contacted to demonstrate the maple syrup making process to individual groups as well, Schmitz said.

“We have about 25 maple trees that can be tapped,” Schmitz.

Onan Observatory

Easy access, rural environment, and dark skies of Baylor Park made it a desirable location for a facility that provides a rare opportunity for studying the stars.

The Onan Observatory is located within the park’s borders and is operated by the Minnesota Astronomical Society (MAS), a non-profit organization, for the benefit of the public, students and teachers, and the society.

The county was approached by MAS for consideration of the observatory because Baylor Park is a rural environment, and light pollution is at a minimum, Walsh said.

“It is an ongoing issue as to how we can maintain the environment for spectacular viewing at the observatory,” Walsh said.

The mission of the observatory is education and public outreach, and it is also used for MAS star parties and public star gazing. Star parties are fair weather events and are cancelled if cloudy or raining. Public star gazing events are fair or foul weather events and take place regardless of sky conditions.

The observatory includes an observing floor, a meeting area, and a storage area. It features a retractable roof and a permanently mounted 16” Cassegrain telescope weighing more than 1,000 pounds, as well as a Meade 10-inch LX6 and a Meade ETX 90RA telescope.

During the spring, summer and fall, the MAS opens the observatory to the public once or twice per month.

For more information, contact the MAS at (952) 467-2426.

Park information

Campgrounds are open from the second Friday in May through the second weekend in October.

The park is open every day of the year, from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. or sunset, whichever is later.

“We are really trying to promote weekday use, offering such things as all-inclusive packages for birthday parties and such,” Schmitz said.

“We also host a guest appreciation week with daytime activities and free entrance,” Schmitz noted.

For more information on Baylor Park and its activities, visit the web site at www.co.carver.mn.us/parks.

For reservations or information on Baylor Park, call (952) 466-5250, Carver County Parks.


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