Another Clark Lake First

You may know that Clark Lake invented the first motorized raft, now mistakenly known elsewhere as “pontoon boats.”  You may also know of all inland lakes in the U.S., Clark Lake had the largest Hobie fleet and more Dori banners flying than anywhere else.  But did you know this?  The park at the east end of Clark Lake is Jackson County’s first.

In the spring of 1925, Emmett Windle, a member of the County Board of Supervisors and resident of Columbia Township, produced a map to show that many sections of county lakes had been fenced off, baring bathers from beaches. He proposed a series of county parks to be located on the shores of Jackson County lakes.

As a result of his vision, the Jackson County Park system was established. Clark Lake County Park was the first park established when a seven-acre piece of property on the northeast shore of Clark Lake was purchased from C.F. Wright for $4500 in June of 1925.

The Jackson County Park system has grown and now includes 16 parks, twelve on lakes and the newest county park – the Falling Waters Trail a 10.5 mile, non-motorized pathway between Jackson and Concord.  The most famous, of course, is the Sparks Foundation County Park with the World famous Cascade Falls, Cascades Golf Course, and Manor House.  It is the largest and most historic park in the county system. It was acquired in as a gift from Sparks Family.

The Clark Lake County Park at the east end preserves our culture in another way.  In the summer of 1997 the Graziani cottage, built in 1898 and located on Clark Lake’s Kentucky Point was floated on a barge down the lake and erected on its present site in the County Park. 

The home is listed on the National Historic Register. The Clark Lake Community Center, with the support of citizens and businesses, completed extensive renovations.  With the help of the Garden Angels, the structure is surrounded with beautiful landscaping.

Keeping its promise to preserve Clark Lake history, a small, but dedicated group, maintains the former Graziani cottage.  Part of the upkeep cost is ameliorated by renting it for events, such as weddings, birthday parties, life remembrances, and meetings. 

The amount raised falls far short of the necessary funds to keep this old, but iconic structure in good shape. On October 14th, the Community Center will host a fund raising event that it puts on only once every two years.  

This year, to accommodate the expected crowd, the party will located in another historic structure–the Clark Lake Yacht Club.  Once known as the Hayes cottage, this building has served as the Yacht Club for many years.  Like the Community Center, you can feel the tradition as you enter the great room. 

The event starts at 5:30 pm on Saturday, October 14.  As the Oktoberfest theme suggests, German fare is on the menu–authentic wurst and chicken schnitzel, potato salad, a variety of cheeses, pretzels and dessert.  BYOB.

The Persuaders will entertain.  The band is from Clark Lake, so they ought to know what gets Clark Lakers going.

For those interested in showing their flair for connecting to the theme, the Community Center promises a $100 prize for best costume.  Plus don’t miss the 50/50 drawing.

If that isn’t enough, you may want to do some shopping.  Included in items for bid is an 18-foot Hobie, once sailed competitively by Lynn Vermeulen (sail number 15003).

For your tickets ($50 each), mail a check to PO Box 132, Clarklake, MI 49234.  More info, contact John Deming at 529-9117 or John Karkheck at 745-2929, email jcdcl@comcast.net.  

Note:  This piece is based on an article written for the View by Walter Reed and the County Park’s Jim Gueriero.

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RETURN TO ALL HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES