Park in progress

SHELBURNE TOWNSHIP – They’re two small lakes, located side by side in the extreme southwest corner of Lyon County. But in recent years, West Twin Lake and East Twin Lake have been getting a lot of attention as the site of a planned county park. And this summer, the construction has progressed to the point where some recognizable park features, like the footprint of a picnic shelter, are taking shape.

“It’s been a long process,” said Lyon County park manager Brooke Wyffels.

“I would say it’s about year seven of it,” Lyon County Board Chairman Rick Anderson said of the planning process. Anderson was serving as county parks manager when talks began to purchase 28 acres of land on the strip that divides the two lakes. Anderson said additional land has been purchased since then, increasing the park to more than 60 acres.

“I think it’s going to be a big asset for the county and for the area,” Anderson said.

However, it’s really only within the last couple of years that Twin Lakes Park has really started to come together. A road grading project and the construction of a parking lot and public dock at East Twin Lake were some of the first steps completed after land was purchased. Anderson said improvements to the lake access have made for much better access for fishing and ice fishing.

This summer, construction of park restrooms and a picnic shelter will be completed at the park.

Another aspect of Twin Lakes Park will be a recognition of the area’s past. Earlier this week, Wyffels and Balaton resident Steve Prairie visited the park site to put up a historical marker remembering the Shelburne Township country school, which once stood on land that is now part of the park.

Prairie said the idea for the sign came from hearing members of his family talk about attending the one-room schoolhouse in the 1930s.

“My mother, Agnes Bakker, was the eldest of 10 children, and they all went to school here,” Prairie said. “My mother talked fondly of this school.”

Prairie spoke with family members, including his uncle Chuck Bakker and aunts Sharon Bakker and Ellen Bakker, and put together information on the school for historic marker. Another past student of the school, Norman Fuhrmann, gave Prairie a photo of the building.

“It’s a nice gesture to have it there,” Fuhrmann said of the sign.

The schoolhouse served eight grades of students, under one teacher, Fuhrmann said.

“She had her hands full,” Fuhrmann said. Every day, each grade level of students would get instruction time with the teacher, as well as assignments and study time, he said. The school was consolidated in 1947, and the building was later moved to Ruthton, where it served as a Masonic Hall.

Wyffels said the area where the schoolhouse once stood will become a playground area at Twin Lakes Park. The finished park will also include a picnic shelter, playground area and 13 campsites with electric hookups, she said.

Wyffels said the county also plans to work with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to restore a swimming beach and public water access at West Twin Lake. Anderson said the lake used to be the site of a beach, but water levels rose throughout the years and covered it up.

While West Twin Lake would be open once again to swimming and recreation, Wyffels said there will likely be restrictions on motorized boats and vehicles, to help preserve the lake’s water clarity and ecology.

While the park is taking shape, Wyffels said one major part of the project is yet to come. The county plans to realign Lyon County Road 53 where it passes by the park site, and a portion of Lyon County Road 51 will be taken out, Wyffels said. The road project will go out for bids this fall, she said. Realigning the roads will help open up more space within the park boundaries, as well as address traffic safety concerns, she said.

Though she hasn’t been with the county parks department for all of it, Wyffels said it’s been a good experience learning about the Twin Lakes Park project. “

I’ve gotten to see how each piece comes together,” she said.