SAUK RAPIDS (WJON News) -- For 81 years, we've known it as Municipal Park along the Mississippi River in Sauk Rapids, but its history goes way back.

Benton County Historical Society Executive Director Mary Ostby says the land was originally part of the Osauka development created by the father of Sauk Rapids Jeremiah Russell. He built a hotel and had a ferry system that took people across the river in the 1870s.

Then, in 1920 the Sauk Rapids Commercial Club decided it would be the perfect spot for a Tourist Camp right along the new Jefferson Highway - which we now know as Benton Drive.

The club leased the land from the railroad for $1. By all accounts, the Tourist Camp was a popular stop along the highway until 1931 when it had to shut down because the state changed the rules on sanitation and health regulations.

Benton County Historical Society
Benton County Historical Society
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The land sat unused until 1940 when a number of Sauk Rapids civic organizations got together to reclaim the park.

A lot of the work was done by the National Youth Administration, an offshoot of the Works Progress Administration. In September 1941, the park was dedicated and given the new name "Municipal Park".

Plat Map from 1874, Benton County Historical Society
Plat Map from 1874, Benton County Historical Society
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Once a month Ostby is on the News @ Noon Show on WJON talking about the forgotten history of Benton County.

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