Hidden gems: Homestead Parklands and Troy Beach offer summer fun
With the Lakefront Park beach in downtown Hudson closed because of high water and erosion from the June 21 storms, area residents might consider two St. Croix County parks as alternatives for swimming.
Troy Beach is a lightly used county park on the St. Croix River, just south of YMCA Camp St. Croix on County F.
What it lacks in amenities, it makes up for in setting. The park has an expansive sand beach that visitors can drive right up to.
Giant cottonwoods shade the barbecue grills, picnic tables and parking area.
There's no running water or electricity, but the beach has pit toilets, a changing house, a beach volleyball court and horseshoe pits.
A little more distant from Hudson, but with more to offer, is Homestead Parklands on Perch Lake.
The 85-acre park offers kayak, canoe and boat rentals, a fishing pier, hiking trails, picnicking, a picnic shelter, a playground, restrooms and drinking fountains in addition to the beach on crystal-clear Perch Lake.
Perch Lake is about nine miles northeast of Hudson, off County E. County E runs east from Houlton, passing to the north of Burkhardt and intersecting with county roads I and A. To get to the park, take Perch Lake Road from either E or I.
The Seim family sold the land for the park to St. Croix County at a discount price in 1996. Thomas W. Seim's maternal grandfather, Thomas W. Davidson, homesteaded the hilly land above the north side of the lake in 1890. Donna Seim remains active in the Friends of Perch Lake organization.
Development of Homestead Parklands started around 2000 and the park opened in 2003.
The 90- to 100-foot-deep, 40-acre lake remains the park's central feature. The land includes restored prairie and steep slopes covered with oak and pine.
Site Manager Justin Townsend said visitors need to come early to get a parking spot near the beach on a warm weekend day. The park's limited parking -- 64 spaces -- is its "only downfall and the saving grace," he said.
The parking was purposely limited to prevent overuse of the small, pristine lake, Townsend said. It is one of the limited number of lakes in the state that are classified as outstanding water resources by the Department of Natural Resources.
"This is really a unique spot, and county residents are extremely lucky to have it," Townsend said.
A loon was alternately bobbing and diving on the lake the day a reporter visited.
"It's your north-woods lake 10 minutes from home," Townsend said. "It's like being up in Hayward or Birchwood, but you're right here. Cool, clean water. There's loons. You've got fishing. You've got the pines around you. The whole atmosphere is just perfect."
Townsend, a UW-River Falls conservation graduate, has been the park's site manager since 2010, but worked there as a seasonal employee while in college.
"It gets me excited, this place," he said. "You know, seven years and it still hasn't lost its luster."
A daily pass to either Homestead Parklands or Troy Beach is $7 per vehicle. A $25 per vehicle season pass is good at all the county's parks, including 700-acre Glen Hills near Glenwood City.
The July hours for Homestead Parklands are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. In August, they go to 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Troy Beach is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday until Aug. 20. The beach closes at 7 p.m. from Aug. 21 to Labor Day. It closes at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday throughout the summer.
For more information on Homestead Parklands call (715) 549-6515. The number for Troy Beach is (715) 386-8043.