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A Big Year Recapped

by JULIE GILBERT, Destination Door County president and CEO

What a year 2023 has been. I would like to share with you a few of our programs that were initiated this year.

Art In The Door was launched with a contest designed to highlight the artists of Door County. Their winning masterpieces are featured in current Door County campaigns targeting Green Bay, Appleton, Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis and Chicago. Brian Pier with “Setting Out,” Linda Welch with “Mother Earth Cherry Tree,” Mac Schueppert with “Bay Sunset,” and Pam Schmitz with “Mink River Reveal” were our winning artists. Their original pieces were auctioned off at our Destination Door County Annual Event in November and as a result we raised and donated $1,150 to the Peninsula Arts & Humanities Alliance. We were also very proud that our Art in the Door program won a Wisconsin Tourism Trailblazer Award from Destinations Wisconsin last month. Visit DoorCounty.com/ArtInTheDoor to watch the videos showing these talented artists’ inspiration for their incredible works of art. 

We invested in Door County’s parks by partnering with local municipalities, the county parks friends’ group and all five state parks friends’ groups to provide dollars for park improvements and enhancements. We have also set up a State Parks Challenge grant initiative being facilitated by the Door County Community Foundation where DDC will match up to $50,000 for each State Park Friends Group.  The total amount that will be invested back into our Parks when all challenge goals are met will total over $1 million, including $750,000 from DDC and another $250,000 raised by the friends’ groups. To learn more about the Parks Challenge visit DoorCountyStateParks.org.

Door County was a 2023 Spotlight site chosen by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, one of only 15 sites chosen throughout the U.S. Over three days this past June, visitors and locals took part in this stewardship initiative hosted by the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Team in collaboration with DDC and Peninsula State Park staff.

Our Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations Grant Program supports the installation of new or additional EV charging stations or the upgrade of existing charging stations to Level 2 or 3. Any business, non-profit organization or government entity was able to apply for one award per calendar year. Each approved project was awarded $1000. A total of eight projects were awarded in each quarter throughout 2023.

As sustainable development is one of three key pillars we are focusing on, these mini grants provide our community an opportunity to show how tourism dollars can benefit us all.

The Door County Community Investment Fund was launched earlier this year to use a portion of the room tax dollars paid by overnight visitors to fund grants for projects that improve the quality of life in Door County. All projects must first comply with Wisconsin room tax laws and enhance the visitor experience, while also showing how they benefit our residents.We work with the Door County Community Foundation to facilitate the program, and during our very first year have granted 18 different projects with a total of $828,917. The next deadline for applications will be Jan. 4, 2024. We look forward to continuing this program and highlighting the importance of the visitor economy. For additional information on grant applications please visit CommunityInvestmentFund.org.

The Door County Destination Stewardship Plan is being created to bring together all our communities to create a shared vision and strategic path forward for the future of tourism in the region. This plan will be the outcome of a community-driven process initiated by DDC and guided by a Steering Committee of local community leaders representing a variety of sectors and interests. We gathered stakeholders and resident feedback through online surveys, focus groups, interviews and in-person and virtual town halls, to begin to establish a vision and path forward for the stewardship of Door County. We will be releasing this plan in the first quarter of 2024 to help guide sustainable growth and development in Door County for the next several years. It will take all of us together to continue moving this actionable plan forward. 

There are so many more programs I could mention but more importantly I would like to say that, “Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.” Our visitor economy’s success is dependent on all of us working together to take care of the place we love. 

Enjoy your family and friends this holiday season. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]. I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions to help us continue growing in a positive direction.