Unique Partnership Protects Door County Parkland (WI)

St. Paul: Through the efforts of a dedicated coalition, the last remaining privately held section of the limestone headlands along the shores Green Bay will be protected for future generations to enjoy as a County Park. By combining funding from many sources, Door County was able to acquire 86 acres of the Ellison Bluff Headlands and nearly double the size of an adjacent park.

Rising nearly 200 feet above the waters of Green Bay, the headlands are part of a rock formation known as the Niagara Escarpment, a unique geological and ecological formation that runs from New York into Wisconsin. The cliffs along the Bay are home to rare snails, some once thought to be extinct, and the ledges and fractures support a vertical forest. The terraced structure of the land demonstrates post-glacial lake levels of the region. By adding the property to the already existing Ellison Bluff County Park, County officials hope to keep the land in its pristine condition. The acquired land will be designated a Wisconsin State Natural Area.

The coalition, headed by the Trust of Public Land (TPL), included Door County, The Town of Liberty Grove, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy. TPL applied for a State Stewardship Grant and with help from conservation partners was able to secure half of the appraised land value, or $1.55 million and Door County contributed another $1 million toward the project. The Town of Liberty Grove, The Nature Conservancy and TPL all made significant donations towards the final purchase price and a private fundraising effort brought in the remaining $155,000. The combination of funding sources will allow the County to take ownership and add the land to their County Park system. The Nature Conservancy recognized the coalition with their 2000 Conservation Partnership Award.

Door County has been rated the number one vacation destination in Wisconsin and growing development pressure has put unique areas such as the Ellison Bluff Headlands at risk of being lost to unplanned growth. It was important to keep it in its pristine condition rather than having it developed,” notes Door County Board of Supervisors Chairman, Leo Zipperer. It was nice to see the people in the community and the local governments come together to support it.

Through the Northwoods Initiative, the Trust for Public Land is taking a proactive approach towards protecting land in the Northern Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota,notes Senior Project Manager Shaun Hamilton. We’re seeing an accelerated rate of land loss. Working together with coalitions such as this one is the best way to keep this land available for the next generation.

In 1945, the Door County Park Board identified Ellison Bluff Headlands as an area that ‘must be preserved’,” adds George Pinney, Cook County Parks Manager. “In 1950 the first property became Ellison Bluff County Park. Now, 50 years later we are continuing our forefather’s dream.”

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. Nationwide, TPL has helped conserve more than a million acres valued at nearly $2 billion. Last year TPL launched its Northwoods Initiative, a regional conservation program that focuses on protecting sensitive lands under pressure from urban centers in the upper Midwest for recreational and second home development. As part of the Northwoods Initiative, TPL assists communities of Northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in planning for and managing the increasing growth affecting this region. For more information about TPL visit www.TPL..org.

The Nature Conservancy is a private, non-profit conservation organization that works to preserve the plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. In Door County, the Conservancy has 1,400 members and has protected 2,144 acres on six preserves. The Wisconsin Chapter has more than 25,000 members and 700 volunteers and has been involved in the protection of more than 55,000 acres in the state since its founding in 1960. For more information about The Nature Conservancy, call Guenevere Abernathy, director of the Door Peninsula Project, at the Sturgeon Bay office, 920-743-8695.