Early days of Wilderness Park



“Take  your insurance dividends in land ownership in beautiful northern  Minnesota” so said the owner of a teachers insurance company in  Louisianna. Or at least something close to that is attributed to R.O.  Rush who ran the Southern Educators Insurance Company. Many teachers did  just that and Wilderness Park began with many Louisianna teachers being  the lot owners.

Rush teamed with a wealthy Texan to acquire and  develop nearly three full sections of land in Cass County. Much of it  was purchased from a corporation named Kaldek, Inc. and it is believed  it had purchased much of its holdings from tax forfeit sales. The  Abstracts of Title (the history of land transfers taken from the county  recording office) show transfers from Kaldek, Inc. to various  development corporations set up such as Wilderness Park, Inc., Southern  Educators Finance Corp. and Southern Educators Corporation.

Over  20 miles of roads were created and aerial survey established lot lines.  Underground electric was put in and the lot sale promotions began. The  clubhouse (a Cap Home actually), swimming pool and tennis court, made  the property desirable for the dream of many wanting the “up north  cabin”. Free gas, and a prize gift to visit the property and take the  tour lured many to view the property for their own use or for  “investment property”. Minnesota has several such developments started  in the 70’s besides Wilderness Park.

A sales office was set up at  the front gate and advertising was heavy in the twin cities area. The  developer hired a caretaker and a sales manager and sales were booming. A  few cabins got built in the 1970’s and many new owners brought their  campers or camped out on their lots. A property owners association was  formed which the developer gradually turned over control to the property  owners who elected a Board of directors to carry out the duties set  forth in the Covenants and By Laws. 

Title problems began to  arise when the developer sold to an investor the Contract wherein a new  property owner purchased a lot on time via a Contract for Deed. When the  new owner paid off their contract, they often thought that was all they  had to do to obtain ownership. They never got a deed to gain title or  if they later contacted the developer they learned the developer has  sold their contract to an investor who could be difficult to find years  after the purchase.

High interest in the 80’s and developing  financial problems saw the developer slowly abandon the project, so the  existing owners had to manage and keep a budget through the annual  property dues payments. Many Louisiana owners never visited and resisted  paying any dues since they never used their lots. Finances were  extremely tight, but the Board kept working to manage the Park with a  great amount of volunteer work. Slowly the clubhouse was improved with  entrances to the shower area created with volunteer labor, the well was  repaired by volunteers and donations led to Handicap entrances and  bathrooms.

Many, many people can take pride for the time and  money spent on making the Park what it is today. Title problems are  being solved and owners from Louisiana are selling their lots to people  who can use them for the intended recreational use. Many lots forfeited  to Cass County, but thru the work of the Board, the County is slowly  selling the lots to new owners.

While there are still a few  owners who resist paying annual dues, liens and foreclosure proceedings  are enforcing the obligations. As in any large organization, there are a  few “disgruntled members”, but the great majority of members realize  the benefits of the work so many have done, and have great affection for  the place we call “The Park”.

Gary L. Phleger