2018 Year in Review: Finding Perspective in a Year of Change

Greg Casperson in the funeral home his family has operated in Sister Bay for 97 years.

Rita Willems in the dance hall of the Alpine Resort, where she held her first job 70 years ago.

Bill Bertschinger, in the halls of the Alpine as well, where he still works 12-hour days barking orders and tending to greens on the property where he has worked his entire life.

William Tishler in a cabin at the Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor, the town where he once counted cars as they drove sparingly by.

Doug Butchart in his home a few steps from where he once built a haunted house and amusement park called Thumb Fun.

During the past year I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing people who have seen Door County evolve through generations. People who have seen it in bad times and good, people who’ve been protectors of the peninsula and who have been accused of ruining it.

And they’re people who miss certain things about this peninsula that they once loved here, but who also love what it is now. In a time when development pressures are causing divisions in communities in all corners of the peninsula, I’ve been lucky to balance the battles of board meetings and ignorance of certain social-media commentators with the perspectives of those who’ve seen it all.

“I loved Sister Bay then,” Casperson told me earlier this year, “and I love Sister Bay now.”

I am as nostalgic as anyone. There are many things I miss about the old Door County — places like Thumb Fun, Eagle Tower and soon Potawatomi Tower. Sadly, we may soon add Pebble Beach and Alpine Resort to that list, but I remain more in awe of all the things we’ve managed to save, though few seem to notice.

During the past 15 years, Door County communities have guided development better than ever before. There is more public access to the water than ever before and more protected acres than ever before, all of which has come at a cost of tens of millions of dollars of private donations and tax dollars.  

After a year when it seemed there was a new development proposal popping up every day, it’s easy to lose sight of all the work people are doing to maintain and improve the best of our home.

In this annual Year in Review issue, we recount the many stories of people, places, events and passings on this peninsula and beyond. People who are doing the difficult work of preserving the parts of this peninsula that draw so many to it. It was a big year of growth and change, and we are glad you came along for the ride with the ink and paper of the Peninsula Pulse.

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