20 Years of Preservation, 10 Years of Learning

Over its 10 years in existence, thousands of children have had the opportunity to learn beyond the walls of their classroom at the Collins Learning Center at Crossroads at Big Creek.

In the past 20 years, technology has transformed the world; consequently, the need for a place where people can get in touch with nature, participating in experience-based education, and where scientists, citizens and elected officials can come together to make wise decisions about the environment is more important than ever.

Thankfully, a group of individuals in Sturgeon Bay had the foresight to plan for just such a place. Spearheaded by Chuck Olson, then a member of the Sturgeon Bay School Board, and advocated for by high school biology teacher Mr. Hauser, the Sturgeon Bay Education Foundation (SBEF) was formed in 1991 with the hope of creating a school forest where children could move beyond books and lectures and get outside to learn.

That first year the group searched for a piece of land, and by 1992 they had borrowed enough money to purchase a 53.3-acre parcel at the corner of Highway 42/57 and Michigan Street. Crossroads at Big Creek came into being from that derelict orchard, several mature forests, a creek and a great location.

The Door County Historical Society was also looking for a place where significant buildings could be moved and preserved, and in 1993, the historical society leased a corner of the property – The Historical Village at The Crossroads continues to allow the story of Door County settlers to be shared.

Over the years, the preserve grew, buildings were moved to The Village, the Leif Everson Observatory was built, and school children got in touch with nature, but the need for a dedicated learning center became apparent. A huge fund raising effort led to construction of the John & Helen Collins Learning Center, which opened on September 11, 2001.

The new facility allowed the scope of Crossroads to extend beyond the students in Sturgeon Bay to all residents and visitors of Door County, so in 2002 Crossroads at Big Creek, Inc. separated from SBEF into its own 501(c)3 organization dedicated to experiential, lifelong learning focused on science history and the environment.

On Oct. 18 at 6 pm, the Board of Directors of Crossroads invites the public to a Founders Day Celebration where, among other activities, a marker honoring “20 Years of Preservation/10 Years of Learning” will be unveiled.

Crossroads at Big Creek is located at 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay. For more information call 920.746.5895 or visit