The Ridges Sanctuary, Wisconsin’s first land trust, was born of a passionate grassroots effort to save a parcel of land and has continued to stay true to its roots ever since. This organization’s founding also created a ripple effect of land conservation throughout Door County (and Wisconsin!), which has contributed to the beautiful place it remains today.
75 years after its founding, The Ridges has announced a $3.5 million campaign to raise funds for a new visitor center, the Cook-Albert Fuller Center; and we are reminded of its ties to the past through the realization of its founders’ original vision.
The visitor center received a leading gift of $1 million from the late Chester Cook, who was a long-standing member of The Ridges and wanted to be a part of the project even though he could not be there in person.
Cook had a very personal connection with The Ridges Sanctuary and had worked for the man who was a founder of the organization when he was only 17 years old.
Albert Fuller had been traveling to Door County to study the rare flora that grew on a parcel of land in Baileys Harbor but poor eyesight prevented him from driving. Fuller decided to hire 17-year-old Cook to take him on his trips and assist him as he inventoried the flora.
Cook and Fuller were on a trip together when they heard news that the city had plans to develop a trailer park on the land that had held these flourishing flowers. Following this discovery, Cook accompanied Fuller and Jens Jensen as they made numerous presentations to Baileys Harbor residents advocating for the land’s preservation and protection.
In 1937, Fuller and Jensen were backed by Anna McArdle, Emma Toft, Olivia Traven, William Sieker and George Sieker as well as others in the community and they formed The Ridges Sanctuary in order to protect these 40 acres of land.
The group went on to protect over 1600 acres of land using this same model of grassroots organization. Today, the sanctuary is open to the public year round and the group continues to work to preserve and protect the area.
Cook was passionate about the project and felt that the building of the new visitor center is a sign that the vision of the founders is beginning to become a reality. We should all be excited to see what The Ridges has in store for Door County in the future and look forward to this founder’s vision being realized for years to come.