As published in the Intercounty Leader on August 2, 2023
Become a friend to your local state parks
By Beverly Swenson
Friends of Interstate Park and Straight Lake Park is a nonprofit organization established to support the park’s naturalist program in its efforts to increase public awareness and appreciation of the park’s natural and cultural history. Wisconsin Interstate Park served 252,900 visitors in 2022 and Straight Lake saw over 92,000 visitors. The Friends group, begun in 1984, depends upon volunteers and people who love parks and nature, and the members work hard to promote participation in nature-based outdoor recreation. Their hope is that the next generation values and enjoys the stunning parks in Polk County.
People come from all over the world to experience Wisconsin Interstate Park, which offers outstanding views of the St. Croix River, particularly from the Pothole Trail. Interstate Park is also the western terminus of the Wisconsin 1,200-mile Ice Age Trail which also runs through Straight Lake State Park, nestled in the woods about 20 minutes northeast of St. Croix Falls.
Friends of Interstate Park hosts a number of events from First Day Hike to Candlelight Night (which had 1,500 attendees this year on February 11), and educational programs such as building bluebird houses, snake discovery, Bruce the Bug Guy, Bill Jamerson’s CCC historical music program, and famous author, radio personality and columnist Stan Tekiela, who studies and photographs wildlife.
Interstate Park was developed in 1900 and is Wisconsin’s oldest state park. The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), formed in 1933, was essentially a peace-time army that spent their days cutting brush, putting out fires, planting trees and building lookout towers in Wisconsin and other states. The park infrastructure is currently in serious need of updates, and the camp buildings, badly in need of repairs, are now used as a beach house and storage area for canoes and as a look-out type fort near the potholes.
Some of the Friends goals are to work on the 1960s infrastructure in the park including the lift station which brings water down to the beach house; renovation of the CCC buildings, especially the beach house; maintenance of all the trails with fresh trap rock; decking on the Pothole Trail; interpretive signage on the Silverbrook and Pothole Trails; and completing the improvements to the fishing pier.
Interstate Park is open to all. Not only humans, but dogs love this park too: according to Trudy Lorenz, president of FIP, a lady brings her two dogs every day for a walk in the park, and when she is ready to leave, one reluctant dog lies on its back with its legs in the air while she puts the other dog in the car!
If you love the environment and the parks, consider joining the Friends of Interstate Park and Straight Lake Park. To learn more about becoming involved or making a donation, go to the website www.friendsofinterstatepark.org. Check out upcoming events on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Interstatepark.
The Northwest Alliance Community Foundation is an affiliate of the St. Croix Valley Foundation. We support our area nonprofits with educational opportunities and grants. Please consider joining us by making a donation. See our website for more information: nacommunityfoundation.org, or email: email@example.com.