Plans and Hopes for the park for he future remain the same as when it was first created. "Keep abreast of the recreational needs and wishes of the public and to offer a quality experience to as many park visitors as possible."
The idea of building a dam for a lake was first conceived in 1912 by Hugh Dealy, Fred Holms, and George Harris. Because land purchase deals could not be met with local property owners, the idea was dropped for 23 years.
In 1933, George Callenius and Robert Mattice resurrected the idea of a dam and a lake. After committee appointment by Paullina Mayor Ed Hilker, engineers determined that a 160-acre lake was feasible. In 1935, bonds were sold by the First National Bank of Paullina to raise the initial $20,000 needed to purchase land and start the project.
President Herbert Hoover initiated the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) in 1932 which was a public relief program to give work to the area’s unemployed during the Great Depression. In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt continued a similar relief program called the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as the largest “New Deal” agency to keep people working.
In 1935, over 300 men, as part of the WPA, began moving ground and constructing the dam. On February 2, 1938, the first water spilled over the dam and down the new spillway. Over 10,000 new trees were planted, the lake was stocked with several game fish species, and a modern lodge was constructed. The lake was officially dedicated on October 1, 1938, by Iowa Governor Nelson G. Kraschel. A new sandy beach area was constructed in 1941. A camping area and small plane airport were constructed a short time later to entice an even broader population. Silt dredging and fish restocking take place periodically to ensure quality fishing and boating.
The lake area is now an official wildlife refuge with hundreds of native Iowa plants and animals. Since 1975, the O’Brien County Conservation Board has maintained and managed Mill Creek Park. Many improvements have been and continue to be made to the park, including modern internet and cable provisions in the campground, four modern rental cabins, playgrounds and sporting courts, a renovated lodge, a new concession stand/bathhouse, aquatic rentals, mini-library access, kayak and boating pier launching areas, and four clearly marked trails for fitness enthusiasts called the Mill Creek Trails. Recent technological updates to trail signage include clearly marked color-coded signs, 1/8-mile distance markings, and interactive QR codes for readily available educational information on the park’s flora and fauna.
Photo 1 taken by: Sarah Fiddelke
Photo 2 from Paullina Gem of the Prairie Book #991
All information is taken from Paullina Gem of the Prairie book number 991 from Paullina City Hall.