The Re-Wilding of Waterloo
An early park brochure enticed visitors with such activities as boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, and winter sports--all of which are still popular today. Over the years the state picked up additional parcels within the park boundary, and today, the Waterloo Recreation Area, operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is the largest state park in the Lower Peninsula, with more than 20,000 acres within its boundaries. It encompasses numerous lakes and acres of forest and wetlands, campgrounds, miles of trails, and swimming and picnic sites, as well as the Eddy Discovery Center and the Michigan Audubon Society's Haehnle sanctuary, where thousands of giant sandhill cranes gather every autumn. Holding true to its original mission, Waterloo continues to provide outdoor recreation and natural settings for area residents as well as visitors from afar.
In 1942, the vocational school at the Cassidy Lake Group Camp was discontinued. The Michigan Department of Corrections took over the facility, which became the first example of MDOC's Special Alternative Incarceration (boot camp) for state prisoners. It continues to operate as a boot camp.
"The outdoor centers were in constant year-round use, both weekdays and weekends, until 1981," says Hodgson. With the state in a severe recession, the DNR closed them to save money.