2002-06-13 / Front Page

Park opened 75 years ago– DNR chief dedicates improvements at South Higgins Lake campground

One of Michigan’s first state parks celebrated its 75th anniversary with dedication of $1.17 million worth of improvements Saturday.
Department of Natural Resources Director K.L. Cool, speaking to an audience composed primarily of DNR employees, said the Clean Michigan Initiative project in the park’s campground included new restrooms, new electrical and water systems and a new sewer lift station.
“Most people don’t come here to look at these things, but they’re really the backbone,” Cool said.
The North Higgins Lake State Park also received improvements including a new bathroom and a water system upgrade, bringing the total spent on the two parks in the last two years to $2.9 million, he said.
The South Higgins Lake State Park opened July 1, 1927, just six years after the Michigan state park system was established. Gerrish Township Supervisor Wiley Simms and Markey Township resident Ralph Sergeant were instrumental in persuading the state to purchase a number of lots in the Sylvan Beach subdivision. Tax-reverted land already owned by the state also was included in the park’s original 100 acres.
Cool said the park had 15 campsites and 50 picnic tables in 1927, compared to 400 campsites and 500 tables today. It had 15,000 visitors in its first year. In 2001, half a million people came to the park. With one mile of Higgins Lake shoreline, the park has Michigan’s second largest state park campground. Day use facilities include parking lots for 400 cars and eight boat launching ramps with parking for 167 vehicles and boat trailers. But the park has fewer “permanent” employees than in 1927, Cool said. Early retirements this year will continue a trend of drastic reduction in the number of DNR employees statewide, he said.

The park gradually grew to 300 acres. Then in March, 1984, its size more than tripled when the Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved purchase of 700 acres of land surrounding Marl Lake. The property was purchased from a developer who had bought it from a family which had used it as a private hunting club for many years. The developer’s plans for a condominium and recreational complex failed to materialize. Nature trails on the Marl Lake property opened in December, 1984.

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