Archived entries for Door County

Calling All Storytellers! ‘Wild Words’ Event Invites High-School Students to Share Stories

The following post was written by our wonderful member Door County Land Trust.



Tom Clay, Executive Director:

Cinnamon Rossman, Communications and Outreach Manager:

Sturgeon Bay, WI – March 10, 2017 – ‘Wild Words: Earth Day Stories of Our Connection to the Land’ is planned for Saturday, April 22 at Crossroads at Big Creek. On this evening, high-school students from across the county are invited to share stories of their connection to the land.

The ‘Wild Words’ project is currently enlisting students to participate. Students in drama, forensics and ecology clubs may be particularly suited, but any interested student should contact the Door County Land Trust to sign up soon. Workshop participation is limited. Stories can range from humorous to dramatic, informative or persuasive. Students can work individually or in pairs to develop and share their stories. An optional workshop for participants will be hosted by WriteOn, Door County in early April.

Door County Land Trust’s executive director Tom Clay says, “Door County families have a history of farming, hunting and fishing, and a great appreciation for the natural beauty of this county. This storytelling event gives high schoolers an opportunity to reflect on why the land is important to them and their family…to share their sense of place.”

The ‘Wild Words’ event on April 22 will be based on a format called “pecha kucha” which is Japanese for chit-chat. Using twenty pictures and twenty seconds per picture, each story will be 6 minutes and 40 seconds long.

‘Wild Words’ is a partnership project between Crossroads at Big Creek, the Door County Land Trust, and WriteOn, Door County. The three organizations are working collaboratively to engage students, help them develop their stories and to present the final event.

The first ten students to sign up to participate will receive a scholarship to the Festival of Nature in May 2017 and a certificate of participation. Students may also be eligible for extra-credit through their classroom teachers.

To learn more about participating in this project, call Door County Land Trust at (920) 746-1359 or email Cinnamon Rossman at or Gretchen Schmelzer at

About the Door County Land Trust

The Door County Land Trust’s mission is “To protect Door County’s exceptional lands and waters…forever.”  It is a nonprofit, community-based organization that actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting with direct land transactions—primarily the purchase or acceptance of donations of land or conservation easements. Founded in 1986, the Door County Land Trust has protected more than 7600 acres from Washington Island through southern Door County and many points in between.

Door County Land Trust nature preserves are open year-round to the public at no charge for hiking, cross-country skiing, wildlife observation, hunting, and other low-impact, non-motorized recreational activities. For more information and to become a Land Trust member visit or call (920)746-1359.  

Dan Burke, 2015 Conservationist of the Year

Dan Burke, Executive Director of Door County Land Trust (DCLT), has been helping DCLT become a treasured and highly respected institution for nearly 20 years. Under his leadership, DCLT has preserved over 7,000 acres of land in one of the state’s most beautiful and ecologically diverse counties, and has grown its membership to over 2,200.

Dan Burke by J Schartner

Photo credit: J Schartner

His dedication and leadership skills have been crucial to DCLT’s success. He has led many challenging easement negotiations and spearheaded efforts to raise the funds needed to further the organization’s mission.  He’s built a talented and capable staff, and forged strong working partnerships with numerous conservation groups, enabling them to more effectively preserve Door County’s shoreline, wetlands, habitat and scenic areas through collaboration, leveraging each other’s skills and resources. This has strengthened land conservation as a whole in northern Wisconsin and it provides public accessibility to natural areas and outdoor recreation to thousands of people each year.

DCLT_3SpringsPreserve_ JSchartner

Photo taken at Three Springs Preserve, a special place protected by Door County Land Trust. Photo credit: J Schartner

“While many people have contributed to the success of the Door County Land Trust, Dan’s visionary and dedicated leadership, and his ability to communicate, negotiate, structure, fund, and complete complex transactions, has been crucial. Dan’s ability to work cooperatively with land owners, communities, government officials and donors has resulted in a steady stream of truly great projects. Without Dan, and the Land Trust he has built, long-term preservation of this precious area would be very much at risk. Instead, it will benefit many generations to come.” Roy Thilly

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Dan Burke with a Conservationist of the Year Award, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

Sense of Identity & Source of Revenue

Terrie Cooper, a lifelong resident of Door County, considered the view from the top of the bluff in the town of Liberty Grove, saying, “I grew up in Ellison Bay. This is my home. The Grand View property was an iconic view that we had all known and loved. It identified our community. I don’t think anybody ever realized that could change.”

Grand View by Julie Schartner 009a2(1)

This 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Photo by Julie Schartner


From this Door County high point, one can see the sparkling waters of Green Bay, islands in the distance, and sheer bluffs topped by hardwood forests. Residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the scenic overlook for many years, often pulling over to the side of the road to snap photos or take in the majestic view. Only when construction of a 44-unit condominium development began on the property did people realize that this signature view could disappear.

Beyond the community concern, an economic threat also loomed. Door County draws over two million visitors every year, most of whom come to enjoy the scenery and outdoor activities. Tourism accounts for almost $300 million in annual revenue in Door County. Though privately owned, the Grand View property was a de facto tourist attraction that drew thousands of visitors each year.


“My wife Vonnie and I drive into Ellison Bay every day and always slow down to marvel at the remarkable view. This very special place has been naively taken for granted until the past few years when the potential for development became real.” – Dave Callsen, community member, Photo by Door County Community Foundation


Concerned citizens approached Door County Land Trust to help find a solution. The land trust responded, marshaling its resources for what would be a five-year-long commitment to forge a path to preservation of the popular and iconic view. Their expertise in conservation and real estate led to successful grant-writing, private fundraising, and land purchase negotiations. They also partnered with the Town of Liberty Grove, which agreed to take eventual ownership of the land and manage it as a public park.

Through persistence and dedication, the land trust was able to secure funding for the overlook property through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the National Scenic Byway Program. The 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Door County, known for its beautiful landscape, can rest assured that this destination spot will always remain.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

Door County icons Roy & Charlotte Lukes, earn Lifetime Achievement Award

Roy and Charlotte Lukes are treasured Door and Kewaunee County naturalists and conservation icons. They have worked as a team for over 40 years educating countless children and adults on the wonders of the natural world and the tremendous importance of protecting Wisconsin’s wild places.

photo by Len Villano

The Lukes have been huge contributors to the Door County Peninsula’s educational curriculum, designed to help people better understand the area’s history, geology, plants, and wildlife.

Roy was the first Chief Naturalist and Manager of The Ridges Sanctuary, has written over 1600 nature essays for area newspapers, and five books on The Ridges, Toft Point and the flora and fauna of Door County. Charlotte has identified more than 550 species of mushrooms in Door County and is working on putting her information into a book. Together, they have led hundreds of hikes in Door County, early morning bird outings and workshops for residents and visitors. The Lukes have been huge contributors to the Door County Peninsula’s educational curriculum, designed to help people better understand the area’s history, geology, plants, and wildlife. In fact, in 2000, Roy and Charlotte founded the Friends of Toft Point, to help preserve and educate others about the Toft Point State Natural Area.

“One doesn’t have to look far to appreciate the wonderful conservation work that has occurred in Door County during the past couple of decades – and in almost every case (if not every case) Roy and Charlotte have had a positive influence on the people responsible for these accomplishments.” – Robert W. Howe, Ph.D., Professor, Natural & Applied Sciences (Biology) and Director, Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, U.W. Green Bay

The Lukes are certainly deserving of the Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be presented to them at Gathering Waters’ 12th annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!

The Climate Corner

The Climate Corner is a monthly column of the Peninsula Pulse, featuring a variety of writers from around the state and Door County, addressing various aspects of the challenges and opportunities climate change presents. Our Executive Director Mike Strigel recently wrote an article for the column, discussing the ways that land trusts are addressing this critical topic. You can read the full article here, or catch some of the highlights below:

In all that they do, land trusts must look to the future, constantly planning for the changes that may affect the health of the land under their stewardship and may alter its value to the community. Whether the change is caused by development in the area, an increasing population, or by the significant warming of average air and water temperatures that is occurring today, land trusts have to be prepared to manage their obligations to the land and the community effectively – in perpetuity.

Photo by Matthew Hester

Photo by Matthew Hester

Across the country more land trusts are including climate change in their strategic planning. Emerging research is helping to identify land that will be critical as our world changes. In some places land trusts are creating natural corridors to allow for plant and animal migration as changing habitat conditions force species to move in order to survive.

Sandhill Crane in prairie

Photo by Gary Shackelford

In coastal areas, land trusts are setting aside wetland and shore land buffers in ways that will protect against erosion and improve water quality in the event of more frequent and higher intensity precipitation or drought. In other cases, land trusts are restoring habitats with more climate resilient native species, as is critical in places such as working forests where a forest suffering from a change in climatic conditions could lead to the loss of not only habitat, but also of jobs. In addition, many land trust projects provide much needed carbon sequestration by preserving forests, helping to offset carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Photo by Emily Jean

Photo by Emily Jean

Beyond these direct activities, land trusts are well-positioned to provide a forum for discussion and dialogue on issues such as climate change. The staff, boards of directors and members of local land trusts are politically diverse, but united by their commitment to a healthy environment through conservation. They represent a cross-section of the community. Business leaders, farmers, elected officials, and concerned citizens come together at land trust meetings and events to talk about what is most important for the places they all care about regardless of political affiliation. As a convener of civic leaders, land trusts can help to move climate change out of the partisan divide by focusing attention on how land conservation can help communities adapt to and lessen the impacts of a changing climate.

Communities thrive when they come together to define and actively confront challenges. Wisconsin land trusts have the opportunity to play a key role in meeting the challenges of climate change in Wisconsin. We already admire land trusts for the many ways they enrich our communities. Helping to mitigate the effects of a changing climate on our lands and waters is yet another reason to appreciate and support their work here on the Door Peninsula.

Wisconsin’s Oldest Land Trust: A Vision Realized

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.


An artist’s conceptual rendering of the future visitor center.

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.

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Albert Fuller and Chester Cook studying wildflowers from Baileys Harbor.

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.

Gathering Waters • 211 S. Paterson St. Suite 270 • Madison, WI 53703 • PH 608-251-9131 • FX 608-663-5971 •