Leading by Example: Paul Graf

In this year’s Philanthopy Issue we bring you the stories of five people inspiring others in our community.

Sturgeon Bay native Paul Graf grew up spending time at Door County parks such as La Salle and Murphy Beach, so when he retired, it was natural that he pour his energy into the group that supports them.

“I’ve always loved the outdoors, fishing, canoeing, hiking, it’s in my blood,” he said. “All of the parks are connected with water. They really are a treasure to the county.”

Now he serves as president of the Friends of Door County Parks, and his wife Jane is on the board as well. Both now give their time fundraising, volunteering at events, and hosting visitors to park programs.

“It’s hard to list all the numerous ways they have given of the their time and talents to help make the Door County Parks system better,” said Door County Parks Director Erik Aleson.

Their efforts have helped the parks erect informational kiosks at each park, install a gazebo at Cave Point, and most recently, major additions to Sugar Creek park that include an 18-hole disc golf course and a foot-bridge over Sugar Creek to expand access. They were also instrumental in opening the Horseshoe Bay Cave for public tours, raising funds for headlamps, coveralls and boots so people could safely tour the caves.

These are all items that aren’t part of the Parks Department budget, but linger on its wish list.

“We don’t present projects to them,” Paul said. “We’re not a lobbying group, we just try to support the things they need but don’t have funds to achieve.”

The Grafs now live a short walk from George Pinney County Park in Sturgeon Bay, where they often fish from the pier or catch the sunset, a nearby reminder of the need to contribute to the environment they love.

“If we can add to these parks, improve access, and strengthen them for residents and tourists as well,” he said, “we can make it an even better place to live. We’re happy to do anything we can to help.”

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