Hayes State Park, known as Cedar Hill State Park, is 100 years old
In March 1922, 100 years ago this month, plans were announced in The Adrian Daily Telegram for a ‘beautiful new’ state park on the eastern shore of Lake Wamplers, at the northern edge of the border of Lenawee County.
The creation of Cedar Hill State Park, known today as Walter J. Hayes State Park, was one of many projects that came to fruition in the hills of Ireland between World War I and the Great Depression. Development of the Irish Hills as a destination attraction had begun around 1920, with plans to improve M-23 – the Sauk Trail Highway and later US 12 – by 1925. The purchase and overhaul of the historic Walker Tavern for passers-by occurred in 1921, and the sale of lots around several of Ireland’s four dozen hill lakes was well underway.
The acquisition of the land was the culmination of more than a year of negotiations, conferences and state-level legal proceedings. The Hane property – 99 acres in all – was purchased for $9,000, with an additional $6,000 allocated for development by the state highway department. The park was established on March 21, 1922, with additional land donated north of Cedar Hill itself provided by Henry Lentz and Fred Ives. Belle Belman donated a right of way along the north side of Round Lake, also known as Hoxie Lake at the time.
On March 31, 1922, the Daily Telegram devoted full story space on page 16 to giving details of the park, with the period style of writing preserved: “Of primary interest this season, not only for motorists but for all of Lenawee County and for the general public is the establishment of the new State Park at Lake Wampler, which will be officially known as Cedar Hill Park.
By mid-August 1922, work had begun on the park, with 15 men from Ionia Prison providing the work. For the most part, the park was developed through manual labor. An additional 64 acres were acquired from the CA Ayers farm on the southeast side of Round Lake. This real estate transaction surrounded all of Round Lake with parkland property.
On July 4, 1923, more than 2,000 cars were present at Cedar Hill State Park. Visitors from nearly every one of the 48 states had come to the park, which at the time included lakefront and swimming access, 40 tables, 100 benches, two comfort stations and several miles of gravel road access . Twelve outdoor concrete stoves were prepared the following week. A public bath was planned as the next major development.
In 1926, the State Parks Commission announced that $5,000 would be invested in building roads, planting trees, and “sanitary facilities.”
In October 1930, Mercy J. Hayes of Detroit donated 230 acres of land south of Cedar Hill in memory of her brother, Senator Walter J. Hayes, who died in 1924. Cedar Hill Park, 270 acres in all , was joined with the Don Hayes and reorganized into Walter J. Hayes State Park.
With the expansion, new bathhouses were ready for the May 1931 season. The boathouse, 109 feet long and 36 feet wide, was declared “the largest of all Michigan state parks” . A new concrete-paved entrance road, which was built off of then US 112 and connecting to “the Brooklyn Road”, was designated M-124, or Wamplers Lake Road.
Following the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC set up a temporary camp in the park to work on various projects before heading north.
The park has continued to grow and improve, where today it is a 654-acre family experience with a modern campground, swimming area, two boat ramps , a fishing pier, trails, a picnic shelter and interpretive programs, according to its website.
Dan Cherry is a Lenawee County historian.