50 years in the parks

In 1967, Lyon County bought the land that would become what is now Garvin Park. Fifty years later, area residents are still enjoying county parks.

An ice cream social was a traditional-style way to celebrate Garvin Park’s 50th anniversary. Last weekend, Lyon County commissioners like Paul Graupmann were serving up root beer floats for park visitors, including Jacob Nybo, Caleb Smith and Brock Smith.


It was a milestone birthday for Lyon County parks, but the focus at the party was what it had been for 50 years — giving area community members a place to go outside and have some fun.

The Lyon County Parks celebrated their 50th anniversary with an ice cream social and other events last weekend. To go along with the anniversary, parks staff also organized activities like medallion hunts at Garvin Park and Twin Lakes Park. Park visitors and campers on Saturday all had their own favorite things to enjoy about county parks.

Theresa Kirst said visiting Garvin Park was something she’d been doing since she was young. Now, new generations of kids are making memories there. As he drank root beer floats with a group of friends, Brock Smith said his family liked going to the park.

“I do. We go to Twin Lakes Park too,” Smith said. “They like the trails,” he said of his friends.

“I like fishing and swimming and kayaking,” added Caleb Smith.

Matt Jones, one of the campers at the park on Saturday, said he traveled from Flandreau, S.D., to go horseback riding at Garvin.

“They have nice trails, and they take care of them,” Jones said.

Events like the 50th anniversary celebration were also a way to help spread the word about Lyon County’s parks around southwest Minnesota, said Brooke Wyffels, head of county parks programming.

Although good weather and holiday weekends draw out many campers, “A lot of people don’t know about the park,” she said. It was good to have a chance to draw people in from around the area.

Although the official anniversary was for 50 years, Garvin Park has a longer history as a community park. In the 1930s, the Garvin Community Club helped establish and maintain the original park land along the Cottonwood River. By the 1960s, Lyon County commissioners were making preparations to establish Garvin as a county park. In 1966, the county board set a dedicated levy amount for parks uses. With a revenue stream for county parks in place, commissioners purchased tax-forfeited property neighboring Garvin Park in November 1967. That move added about 500 acres to the park and marked the start of today’s Lyon County parks system.

Fifty years later, Garvin Park now has features like hiking and horse trails, campgrounds and picnic areas, and even a disc golf course. Wyffels said Family-friendly events like weekend naturalist programs and outdoor movie nights are new at the park, and have gotten a good response. So far, Wyffels said, the outdoor movies have drawn crowds of around 150 people.

The Lyon County parks system has also grown to include the new Twin Lakes Park in Shelburne Township. In 2007, the Lyon County Board bought 27.5 acres of land between East and West Twin Lake, for the creation of the park. While planning and building the park was a long process, Twin Lakes officially opened in 2016, with features including 15 electric campsites and a picnic shelter.

People at Garvin Park on Saturday all had different reasons to enjoy county parks. Some came for camping or cookouts. For some, the horse camp site and horseback riding trails were a big draw. Wyffels and Lyon County parks worker Spencer Kor said horse camp registrations have come from as far away as Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.

Campers Christian and Tawnya Reimche said they were fans of Garvin Park’s amenities for horseback riders. The variety of scenery and trails were a plus, they said.

“We love the trails and water crossings, and we like that they have electricity (at the campsites),” Tawnya Reimche said.

Wyffels said more information on park programs are available at park kiosks, on Facebook, and on the Lyon County Parks website.