Garlough Park picnic shelter

How We Got the Garlough Park Picnic Shelter

Thanks to Southview Garden Center for their support.

Little known fact: We have the YMCA to thank for the Garlough Park picnic shelter.

It came about with the creation of the former Thompson Oaks Golf Course in 1994. The city needed YMCA land for two holes of the proposed nine-hole golf course and the YMCA agreed to let the city use the land, as long as they could get a picnic shelter in Garlough Park where they had been holding day camps for nearly 20 years.

Kind of ironic that the picnic shelter is the only surviving element of that plan. The Thompson Oaks Golf Course closed in 2018 and is being redeveloped, and the YMCA sold their land to Hy-Vee in 2019 and are still using a temporary space just over the border in Inver Grove Heights.

Pushback to a Picnic Shelter

The picnic shelter for two holes on a golf course seemed like a simple plan, but it faced pushback from local residents. Eventually the city moved the site of the shelter to its current spot next to Garlough School so it wouldn’t be visible to any nearby neighbors. It still faced opposition.

“I moved in here because it’s a quiet neighborhood,” George Smolinski told the Pioneer Press. “Then I found out about what they were going to do to Garlough Park.”

According to the Pioneer Press, many neighbors wanted the park to remain undeveloped. Some also feared the YMCA would expand the day camp to include campers from YMCA groups outside of West St. Paul. The eventual agreement stipulated that the day camp would only be used by the West St. Paul YMCA.

“My position is still that they shouldn’t develop the park,” said Smolinski, who organized a petition opposing the picnic shelter and garnered approximately 100 signatures. “It’s the last publicly owned, undeveloped piece of property in the city of West St. Paul.”

Garlough Park Today

Today Garlough Park is still mostly undeveloped, with the picnic shelter, a disc golf course, and the River-to-River Greenway trail. Much of the park is still forest.

The biggest development happening right now is the expansion of the River-to-River Greenway trail, which is being slightly re-routed through Garlough Park, in conjunction with the work in Marthaler Park.

Digging into local history only happens with your support.

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