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Hidden gems: Homestead Parklands and Troy Beach offer summer fun

The Homestead Parklands beach on Perch Lake is a popular place during the summer. The clean water has earned the lake designation as an outstanding water resource by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. (Hudson Star-Observer photos by Randy Hanson)1 / 11
Homestead Parklands offers kayak, canoe, rowboat and paddle boat rentals. The price is $8 for the first hour and $4 for each following hour for all but the paddle boats. The fee is a straight $8 an hour for the paddle boats.2 / 11
Jessica Wilcoxson and Casey Polk enjoy a hot day at Troy Beach. Both are North Hudson residents. Wilcoxson, a 2012 graduate of Hudson High School, is a UW-River Falls student. Polk, who graduated from Hudson High in 2011, attends Century College.3 / 11
A visitor to Troy Beach relaxes in the shade of a giant cottonwood.4 / 11
"I've got the best job in the world," says Justin Townsend, site manager for Homestead Parklands and Troy Beach.5 / 11
Homestead Parklands seasonal worker Maggie Hall greets a carload of park visitors. A daily pass is $7 per vehicle. A seasonal pass, good at all the county's parks, is $25.6 / 11
Visitors to Troy Beach can park next to it, under tall trees.7 / 11
Kayakers head across Perch Lake.8 / 11
A man fishes from a tree stump at the Town of St. Joseph boat landing on Perch Lake.9 / 11
The high ground of Homestead Parklands is restored prairie, traversed by hiking paths.10 / 11
A fishing pier is one of the amenities at Homestead Parklands.11 / 11

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.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

(715) 426-1066