Baileys Harbor Welcomes Design Team

When Rob Burke, community resource development agent with the Door County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, heard from colleague Todd Johnson at the UW-Extension office in River Falls about the possibility of bringing a volunteer team of professionals to a community in the county to conduct a charette, Burke immediately thought of Baileys Harbor.

“They’re kind of in a looking forward mode. Something felt right about it and, man, they were enthusiastic about it,” Burke said. “They understand what visioning is and what planning is. They know how to do it. There are a lot of people in Baileys Harbor who take an interest in change and the future.”

And now it’s all come to fruition, with the design team arriving on Thursday, Nov. 5 for an intensive three days of getting to know the town, listening to town residents about their visions of the future of Baileys Harbor, and then coming up with a series of short-term and long-term projects to help the town achieve its vision. During their time here, the team stays with locals to get an even deeper immersion into the town culture.

Early last May, Burke and Johnson attended a Baileys Harbor Plan Commission meeting and presented the idea for a volunteer team to come in and meet with the community for a weekend to come up with some solid ideas for the town’s future. Johnson said he would not have any problem recruiting volunteers to come to Baileys Harbor, which proved to be true. At the May meeting he said he usually has 20 volunteers on a team. For the Baileys Harbor visit he has 26 people lined up.

“The amount of talent will be mind boggling,” Johnson said.

The team will consist of architects, urban planners, an economist, and UW-Extension agents with a variety of specialties, including a youth development agent who is bringing along a couple of high school students who will be put up with local families with high school students.

“That’s a new thing. We’ve never brought students before, but we want to get the youth perspective,” Johnson said. “Then we have a couple of urban designers who have backgrounds in architecture and landscape architecture.”

He will also have a UW-River Falls student intern photo-documenting the three-day planning session, and his friend, David Timmerman, editor of the Grant County Herald Independent.

“He originally came on board as a documentarian, but he ended up being much more than a documentarian,” Johnson said. “He has an incredible knowledge of politics and public policy in Wisconsin, just because he’s been covering it so long. We’re bringing him along again so we can use his knowledge on public policy. We’re bringing a Madison artist, a professional illustrator who does a lot of collaborative work with communities. We’ve never brought just a straight-out artist on the team before, so that will be another experiment. This is probably the largest group I’ve had to manage, and I’ve been doing this for 18 years.”

Johnson said the most important work has already taken place with town residents rallying to make the event happen.

“The design team, when we come to town for that visit, it’s fun and exciting and we do a lot of good work, but the most important things is that the community got us there,” Johnson said. “It shows that the community can come together, get organized and get something done. It’s that exercise that is so bloody important when it comes to implementing the ideas.”

Burke said it was the dynamic work of the town planning committee that is making it all happen.

“The Baileys Harbor planning group, with Doug (Smith, town clerk) and Brynn (Swanson, marketing coordinator of the Baileys Harbor Community Association) and Gordon (Rowley, chair of the town Plan Commission) and Mariah (Goode, town resident and head of the Door County Planning Dept.) and Steve (Leonard, head of the Ridges Sanctuary), they’ve done an amazing job, putting together the housing, agenda, all the food for feeding these folks, pulling together all the background information that the design team will need. They’ve been incredible,” Burke said. “They did it all on their own. They are really enthused about the project.”

“The community has been wonderfully supportive and generous regarding the need for housing, food, presenters, funds, etc. to support the design team’s visit,” said Mariah Goode. “The coordinating committee has been very pleased with the outpouring of offers to help. I’ve never participated in a charette, so I’m pretty excited about it as a planner and as a resident of Baileys Harbor.”

Here is a rough schedule of events:

Thursday, Nov. 5: The team arrives and an opening reception will be held at the Ridges Sanctuary from 7-9 pm. This is an opportunity for host families to meet the team members who will stay with them.

Friday, Nov. 6: A series of 20-minute presentations will be given by a variety of organizations from 9 am to noon in the town hall. Presenters include the Baileys Harbor Community Association, Baileys Harbor Historical Society, The Door County Planning Dept. and Soil and Water Conservation Dept., Door Tran, Door County Economic Development Corp and others.

The team will take a walk around the town hall and the fire station so they can see the town’s infrastructure.

Lunch at the town, a chili bar provided by Coyote Roadhouse, will coincide with a senior resource center lunch at the town hall so team members can talk to seniors about their visions for the town. That will be followed by a kid’s afternoon at the town hall (Gibraltar School is out that day), so team members can get some youthful viewpoints.

The team will then take a walk through downtown before boarding a bus for a three-hour bus tour of the town to see as many of the town highlights and properties as possible.

A potluck dinner is being held at the town hall beginning at 5:30 pm, with the Baileys Harbor As providing the entrees. That will be followed at 7 pm by the visioning session, in which people will be able to air their ideas to the team.

Saturday Nov. 7: The team holes up in the town hall during the day to come up with their proposals and illustrations to be presented to the community that night.

“If people have to pick a night to attend, they should come Friday,” Goode said. “That is the big main event to get their ideas out.”


Learn more about the design team visit at

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