County Parks Infused with Grants, Donations

Destination Door County (DDC) presented three ceremonial checks for real dollars that will enhance both county parks and water quality safety at local beaches.

Julie Gilbert, DDC president/CEO, said during the check presentation at the Door County Board of Supervisors meeting, June 25, that they welcome the chance to be able to highlight the benefits of the visitor economy. The money that funds the DDC programs comes from the 8% room tax that visitors pay when staying overnight in Door County. 

“To have the county as partners in this and the Friends of the County Parks – it’s really gratifying to see this move forward,” Gilbert said. 

The largest donation was for $150,000 from DDC’s Parks Initiative grant program. The funding went to the Friends of Door County Parks for a new playground and pavilion at Sugar Creek County Park at 2349 County Road N in Gardner. The 40-acre park has 1,050 feet of Green Bay water frontage, and a fully wooded 18-hole Disc Golf course. 

The park is named for the creek that runs through it and was a popular tributary for smelt-dippers, according to the park’s history. Today, it’s a busy access point to the ice in winter for perch and whitefish fishing.   

The Friends of Door County Parks applied for the noncompetitive DDC grant dollars, with assistance from Door County Parks Director Tim Kazmierczak. The Friends group has raised $500,000 for county parks over the years, Kazmierczak said, over half of that in the past three years.

Destination Door County presented a ceremonial check to the Friends of Door County Parks for a new playground and pavilion at Sugar Creek County Park in Gardner. (From left around the check) County Board Chair Dave Englebert; Door County Facilities and Parks Director Wayne Spritka; Destination Door County President/CEO Julie Gilbert; Friends of Door County Parks board members, Beth and Jay Renstrom; and Door County Parks Director Tim Kazmierczak. Photo by D.A. Fitzgerald.

Another check for $92,850 came from a DDC Community Investment Fund (CIF) grant. The money will fund an open-air pavilion at John Miles County Park at 916 14th Ave. in Sturgeon Bay.

Door County Facilities and Parks Director Wayne Spritka said there is still more fundraising needed – his estimate is $182,000 for the pavilion and $164,038 has now been raised with the latest grant added – but they have enough to go out to bid, and expect those back by July 3.

“The goal is to get this in the ground and up before the snow flies,” he said.  

The pavilion at the 60-acre park that’s been the site of the Door County Fair since 1908 has been on the county’s Capital Improvement Project plan for at least 15 years.

“It’s always an easy one to cut, because it’s not a requirement for the county,” Spritka said.

Not a requirement, but it has become more of a necessity. During County Fair time, some of the bands command up to $20,000.

“If it rains, they don’t play but they still get paid,” Spritka said. “So it’s a huge expense.” 

The work-around has been to shuttle things out of, and the bands into, the multi-purpose barn building.

“It’s an absolute circus to watch that happen,” Spritka said.

The pavilion will be located where the portable stage is erected along the midway between the Farm Bureau and Amvets food stands. The design has electronically-controlled drop-down curtains on three sides. 

DDC’s CIF grant program awards projects that serve both residents and visitors. The money for the pavilion at John Miles County Park was awarded in the second quarter of this year. Another DDC CIF grant – this one from the first quarter of this year, and also presented June 25 at the County Board of Supervisors meeting – was for $56,035 to fund five more beach-water quality signs at local beaches.

Kazmierczak said those locations include the beach in Sister Bay; one at each of the three main entrances at Whitefish Dunes State Park; and one at Peninsula State Park, at a location that had yet to be determined. 

The signs may be installed as early as this season, though definitely by 2025, Kazmierczak said.

The signs will be added to the five water-quality signs already installed in Door County – Frank E. Murphy County Park in the town of Egg Harbor; Baileys Harbor Ridges County Park; Egg Harbor Beach; and, in Sturgeon Bay, Otumba Park Beach and Sunset Park Beach. The cellular-connected signs enable University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh students to post a beach advisory or closure whenever water samples indicate that E.coli levels create unsafe swimming conditions.

“With these signs, we can notify over a much shorter period of time,” Kazmierczak said.

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