Restored access road to Hiddenwood Lake Recreation Area


Four years after the Lake Hiddenwood Dam was washed away and cut off access to the state park, construction of a new access road that will once again allow visitors to enter the park is underway. ‘completion.

The road will provide access to the park near Selby from the west. It is an achievement made possible by a combination of public and local funds. These local funds came from a multitude of donations to the Lake Hiddenwood Foundation. The group formed after the dam collapsed in an effort to restore access to the park.

Access was lost after a storm in May 2018 dropped 13 inches of rain in the area. It was then that the earth dam at Hiddenwood Lake, built in 1926, broke. Since then, the lake has dried up and the main access to the park has been cut off.

After:13 inches of rain between Long Lake and Selby prompted the state for an emergency declaration from Trump

Hiddenwood Lake was designated a state park in November 1951. The area 4 miles northeast of Selby was developed over time into the park that remains today. But efforts to rebuild the dam and restore the lake have not yet been successful.

Heavy rains on May 18 washed out the Hiddenwood Lake Dam, draining the lake.  Courtesy picture

Desi Simons, treasurer of the Lake Hiddenwood Foundation, said the goal was to complete the road early this month. She credits the accomplishment to local support for the project, which came in the form of donations from several groups and local entrepreneur Nathan Oban, who has a personal connection to the park.

After:The Lake Hiddenwood Group aims to rebuild a road to access the park

“He talks about how his grandfather took his kids to Hiddenwood Lake,” Simons said.

Local farmers also helped by donating trucks to haul gravel from the road.

“It’s absolutely crazy how many people have done stuff,” she said. “I can almost write a book about kindness in people.”

The organizer hopes to restore the lake and the bridge

These local donors invested $130,000 in the $220,000 task of building the road. But, Simons said, there’s still a lot to do. Like bringing the lake back and restoring one of the park’s bridges.

“There’s a main pedestrian bridge that connects the trails,” Simons said, noting that the group applied for a grant. “This is the next big project we’re working on.”

Simons said restoring the lake would take time and could even mean a dam in a different location than the one that was washed away.

Although empty of visitors in recent years, the park has not lacked attention. Teams of volunteers come out every year to clean up, clear trails and mow.

The people of Simons have been generous with their time as they all share special memories of this region.

“It was a little hidden secret,” she said.

Simons said there was excitement about having access to the park.

“Even without a lake, there are trails and camping. Our thought is that if Hiddenwood had a shower and a dump station, it would be full every weekend. That’s another thing on our list,” a- she declared.

Foundation President Scott Schilling said it was good to know the park would be open to the public again.

“Really, a lot of people thought it would never happen,” he said.

Study examining where the dam could work

Another improvement could be a dam to restore the lake. Schilling, who also sits on the Walworth County Commission, said Walworth and Campbell counties commissioned a water study to determine the effect on properties since the dam burst,

He expects the results of this study soon.

Dan Richards, park superintendent for Indian Creek Recreation Area, Hiddenwood Lake State Park and West Pollock Recreation Area, agrees that more can be done, including restoring power to the park and to evaluate the supply of the camping bases. Concrete barriers are needed to prevent visitors from diving from a steep drop, he said.

A pedestrian bridge at Hiddenwood Lake, seen before the dam collapsed in 2018. This is one of the bridges in the park that volunteers would like to see replaced.

“Once the road is finished, you have to control the erosion,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”

Work will continue throughout the summer, he said.

“I never would have thought there was this passion that was there,” Richards said.

Although a first step toward the state to replace the dam was rejected, Richards and others do not rule out the future possibility of a cofferdam to restore the lake.


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