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Then and Now: Little Lake Park built by big ice and big hearts

For generations, Little Lake Park has offered perfect respite

What we now know as Little Lake was formed by ice left behind by glaciers in kettle lakes many tens of thousands of years ago.

Kettle lakes are formed when sediment surrounds blocks of ice left behind by retreating glaciers. The resulting deposit forms a small lake, and like ours here in Midland there are no in-flows or out-flows making it a very still and shallow lake.

Little Lake has been a central point for life in Midland and the area since before the town was known by that name.

Several Ouendat villages were located on or near the lake, including the Jones Farm Huron Village that dates back to 1500s, Fallis Village, and the ossuary in the reconstructed village next to the Huronia Ouendat Museum.

In 1882, it was converted to a drive-in park, where you could ride your horse and buggy along the same path that provides a street through the park today.

Some five years later, the town of Midland purchased part of the park.

Then in 1906, local businessman with a big heart, James Playfair, purchased more land to save the trees from lumber mills. He turned over what he purchased from landowners to the town to become part of the park.

After the war, when cars became more popular, cabins were built around the park and it became available for camping. Eventually, campsites were built with wooden platforms. Putting up your tent right on the ground was also an option.

During the summer months, between 500 and 2,000 campers would make Little Lake Park a destination. The town officially ended camping in the park in 1990.

For major events, like regattas, which were at one time popular on the placid lake, crowds of thousands of people would come to the park.

While you may not catch throngs of people numbering in the thousands at Little Lake Park these days, you will find people lined-up at Tony’s Restaurant waiting for ice cream or burgers and snacks.

The shallow lake is a great spot for kids, and with new parts of the park added over time, Little Lake Park has something for everyone today, including the family frolfer (disc golfer, or frisbee golfer).

On any given day, including the coldest winter days, you can be sure to find a group of frolfers making their way around the 18-hole course that includes a few true gems (one completely encircled by trees that this frolfer thinks was more of a practical joke than an achievable frolf hole).

The tennis courts are a well-positioned spot for a game, set, match bulit in the shade of the trees atop the ridge that surrounds the park.

A fenced-in dog park gives your furry family members a place to run free.

For those family members with less fur, there are two playgrounds, including one newly installed last year. The newest of the two features the park’s most popular new addition, a zipline swing that regularly has kids of all ages lined up for a turn when the swing is out.

The Rowing Club built their spot at the cusp of the park in the 1980s, seizing on the excellent and constant rowing conditions present with the nearly wave-free lake.

The beach volleyball courts next to the community garden provide the perfect spot to windmill high five your volleyball teammate after a sunny side game from a day of beach time fun.

If games that stay closer to the ground are more your speed, Little Lake boasts the Lawn Bowling Club at the opposite end from the Rowing Club.

For those that prefer colder pursuits, the Curling Club with more than a hundred years of history sits at the top of the park near the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre that hosts an array of activities year-round.

Likewise, you can get all pumped up, or take a dip in the pool at the YMCA.

And, if you’re looking to sit back and watch some feats of gravity-defying awe, take your nbike, board or two feet and a heartbeat on Little Lake’s nearly three-kilometre paved path that ends with a skate park where you check out what the kids of all ages are landing.