In 1932 the public had no access to West Lake Okoboji, but by 1933 that would change. In the years of 1933 and 1934 acquisition of property marked a long-felt need for a public area on Iowa's largest and most famous lakes. The Iowa State Board of Conservation announced the purchase of 71-acre tract on West Okoboji Lake at Gull Point, to become the major state park in the Iowa Great Lakes Region.
Purchase was made possible by subscription of $5,000 from residents of the Lakes Region counties. The track was purchased from the Spencer Investment Company of which William Flindt Jr. of Spencer was president. (Several weeks ago I read an article in the Spirit Lake Beacon (1934) that stated the Spencer Investment Company donated the property for $1 —wow!)
There is a total of 535 feet of lakeshore for public use. The price was $11,000. The State Board of Conservation agreed to expend $6,000 toward the purchase and the public pay the other $5,000. (Milford Mail-March 15, 1934).
Lakeshore property on West Okoboji is selling for $15,000 a foot so 535 feet today is worth $8,025,000. Wow, what a deal! The amount of lakeshore property was much more than 535 feet because they purchased six lots at the extreme end of Gull Point so it would be over $9 million. Wow again!
Spirit Lake Beacon — July 19, 1934: "In addition to the Flindt property 11 more acres were purchased to expand the park to include Gull Point itself. There were six lots bought from: Lena and D. W. Dickinson, Hugh Pritchard estate, Warren Dickinson and Flora Dickinson, Robert Dickinson and W. H. Saminons for a total of a little over $22,000. One angle to the whole proceedings is that while the price looks like a lot of money yet there is only one West Okoboji and one Gull Point in all America and the individuals acquired it in an early day because it was one of the choice spots on the lake.”
Milford Mail — July 12, 1934: "Work on the new shelter house at Gull Point State Park was started this week by the camp workmen."
Lake Park News — Aug. 16, 1934: "Camp Okoboji Conservation Corps (CCC-Company 778) workman have begun construction on the new Gull Point State Park shelter house and lodge. It will be an all-year recreation center, the most prestigious in the Lakes Region. Exclusive of the CCC labor, the building will cost approximately $10,000; funds furnished by the Iowa State Board of Conservation.
The building will overlook West Okoboji from a knoll where the former Camp Holiday lodge stood. It will be of native timber and stone construction with a flagstone terrace in front. The main building, an open hall will be 72 by 30 feet in size. A kitchen and dining room with an enclosed dining porch will be on the west of the main hall. On the east will be toilets, women’s lounge room, and storeroom. There will be faced-boulder fireplaces in the main hall and dining room. Construction will require the use of 455 barrels of cement, 500 cubic yards of field stone, 3,000 feet of timber and 20,000 feet of lumber."
Milford Mail — March 15, 1934: "Development of the Gull Point area will be left in its natural state insofar as possible. Development as planned now will include one large and pretentious lodge overlooking the lake, a bathhouse, boathouse picnic area, six small shelter houses, parking area to accommodate several hundred cars and about six miles of woodland trail. The main entrance will be near the West Okoboji Golf and Country Club, although the park can be entered by the present road near Crescent Beach and the lakeshore road along Miller's Bay. There will be brush cleared from the area but no trees cut except to control the disease. Purchase of the park site was made possible through a drive carried on in six Lakes Region counties. Don Stearns of Okoboji was chairman of the group with Leo Dailey of Spencer serving as secretary. The Milford member of the committee to raise money was Ernest Woods."
Spirit Lake Beacon — June 21, 1934: "Approved project for the CCC boys at Gull Point were: construction of telephone line one-half mile long; truck trails 2 1/2 miles; fences, four miles; a well dug; lineal survey at Gull Point; beach improvement and water system."
Spirit Lake Beacon — Nov. 8, 1934: "The north wing of the shelter house at Gull Point has been practically completed and about half of the stonework on the remainder of the building has been done."
Several years ago I interviewed a former CCC boy who worked on the Gull Point project. I asked him several questions about the forming of the rocks and how they managed to get the heavy stones up the west wall. Remember, the CCC boys had no heavy equipment or stone cutting machines. He told me the stones were gathered from the nearby farms and brought to the site. The boys lifted the stones onto the trucks and split the stones by chisel and sledgehammer after they had been scored by a "master stonecutter." The boys had neither gloves nor eye goggles for protection but only muscles. The high wall on the west side of the lodge was built like the pyramids in Egypt. Dirt was wheelbarrowed to the site and piled up as the wall advanced. The stones were wheeled up to the incline by hand. After the wall was finished the dirt was wheeled to the south to make the parking lot. The gentleman who described the procedure said he felt very proud to participate in the operation.
In the late 1930s, my family enjoyed Gull Point State Park many times. A group of my folks' friends would gather at the picnic area, start a fire in the fireplace built by the CCC boys and have a hamburger feast. There was also plenty of potato salad, beans, etc. Before the picnic was begun all of us kids would either race around on the trails or go swimming. I recall that on one of those picnics, going swimming and diving off the dock that had metal crossbars and doing a back dive. I didn’t get far enough out and banged my head on the crossbar. God was with me as I woke up at the bottom of the lake with enough presence to rise to the surface. For many years I had a large bump on my forehead as a result of the encounter——hard head.
Over the years we have attended many functions at Gull Point including Okoboji Yacht Club dinners and dances, Old Settlers picnics, weddings, etc.; a great place for social activities. We have many great memories of Gull Point State Park and look forward to many more in the future.