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Bloomington Yesterday: The beginnings of Hyland Park

Authored on
Bloomington Briefing Published August 4, 2021
Updated on November 2, 2022
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What do a park, lake and farmer all have in common? Add Bloomington to the riddle and you get Hyland. 

The story goes back to 1857 when James Hyland purchased more than 100 acres on the eastern shore of the lake that now bears his name. In those days, lakes were often named for the landowner. Hyland farmed along its shores with his spouse Rosanna and children. Sadly, James died five years after he bought the farm. Rosanna continued farming for another 25 years. It was a hard life. One of her sons was killed in the Civil War. In all, the Hyland family farmed the area for 30 years.

The Hyland property changed hands multiple times during the first half of the 20th century until it was bought by Three Rivers Park District in the 1950s. More purchases of farms followed. Much of the land that now comprises Hyland Lake Park Reserve was purchased from brothers James and Chester Nesbitt. Since the 19th century, generations of the Nesbitt family had farmed land near Hyland Lake.

In 1958, a park system plan identified Hyland as a future park. Six years later, Hyland Lake Park Reserve opened with basic services. At that time, the park was incomplete but more land and features were to come.

Today, amenities abound with paved and unpaved trails, beaches, playgrounds, picnic shelters, boat docks, fishing piers, a nature center, a ski hill and more. The 2,500-acre Hyland-Bush-Anderson Lakes Park Reserve, is owned and operated in partnership with Three Rivers Park District and the City of Bloomington. Three Rivers Park District operates the Hyland and Anderson Lakes facilities while the City of Bloomington operates the Bush Lake and Normandale Lake facilities.