Door County Land Trust Nears Completion on Purchase of 332-acre Ship Canal Property, Seeking Community Support for Final Funds

Learn more about the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Project by downloading the Sturgeon Bay Canal Nature Preserve Information Sheet (1 mb).

The Door County Land Trust announced today that it has raised 90% of the dollars needed from private donors to purchase and permanently preserve what is known locally as the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Property. The Land Trust now seeks donations from the greater community to raise the final funds needed to purchase 332 acres and 740 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline along the south side of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal.

Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal

Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal

“This property is truly a remarkable place.  It’s a favorite of the Door County community and a lot of excitement has been generated over its possible purchase and protection,” states Dan Burke, executive director of the Land Trust.  “The Land Trust has been working on acquiring the grants and private funds needed for this purchase for over six years.  It’s been a long time in the works and we’ve thrilled to report that we’re almost there.”

The Land Trust entered into an Offer to Purchase with the Sturgeon Bay Utilities, owners of the property, on June 19, 2009.  The offer included two critical contingencies.  One contingency required the Sturgeon Bay City Council to approve the sale which it did on August 4, 2009.  The second contingency requires the Land Trust to secure all necessary funding.

Total project costs for the property are just under $2 million–$1,992,000.  The Land Trust has applied for and expects to receive approximately $1,686,000 in grants from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Knowles Nelson State Stewardship Fund.  The balance of $306,000 is needed from private donors.

“This was an ambitious project, but we’re pleased to report that 90% of the dollars needed from private donors have been secured and we are now asking others in the community who care about the future of this special place to help us raise the final $29,000 by the December 15 closing date,” states Laurel Hauser, development director for the Land Trust.

The effort to purchase this land has been greatly aided by leadership gifts received from American Transmission Company, the Carla and Ellsworth Peterson Foundation, the John C. Bock Foundation and an anonymous Sturgeon Bay area foundation.  “We are also thankful for the generous support we have already received from many individual donors and Door County Land Trust members along with the Door County Community Foundation.  The effort to preserve this remarkable project is truly a community-wide effort,” explains Hauser.

If the Land Trust is successful in its efforts to purchase the land, the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Nature Preserve will be established. This premier nature preserve will be open to the public for low-impact recreational and educational uses such as swimming, hiking, wildlife viewing, school field trips, and research.  The Land Trust intends to improve and maintain walking trails, erect educational kiosks and increase efforts to fight the invasive plant species now on the property.

“The Ship Canal property is a well-loved community asset.  We want it to stay that way.  Our overall goal,” states Dan Burke, “is to improve the ecological health of the property for wildlife and plants, enhance the experience for visitors, and make sure this treasure is around for generations to come.”

Protection of the Ship Canal property has long been in doubt as a variety of development proposals have been suggested over the years. Recent proposals have included a coal-fueled power plant, aquatic industrial park, all terrain vehicle park and mixed use residential development.

Citizen groups, neighbors, and admirers of the property have worked for years to keep the land in its natural state.  Educator and local naturalist, Mike Madden, describes the property as “one of Door County’s ecological gems.  The pristine beach and dunes, ridge and swale formations of ancient shorelines, towering hemlocks and the awe-inspiring views of Lake Michigan and the canal make this one of our most beloved natural areas.  In addition to its beauty, it provides habitat for many rare and endangered plants and animals including osprey, bald eagles, pitcher’s dune thistle and migrating warblers.  This is an important place for us to protect and we’re grateful that the Land Trust is here to do it.”

Tax-deductible contributions toward the preservation of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal property and the establishment of the nature preserve may be sent to the Door County Land Trust, P.O. Box 65, Sturgeon Bay, WI  54235.  Donations may also be made on-line at the Land Trust’s web-site, .  All donors will be thanked in the Door County Advocate and listed on the nature preserve kiosk to be erected at the preserve’s public parking area.  If the purchase is successful, the Land Trust plans to formally dedicate the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Nature Preserve next summer.

The Door County Land Trust is a local, 501(c)3 non-profit organization supported by 2,500 individuals and families.  The mission of the Land Trust is to protect, preserve and maintain lands that contribute significantly to the scenic beauty, open space, and ecological integrity of Door County.  The Land Trust has protected 4,800 acres throughout Door County and maintains many nature preserves which are open to the public.

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