Door Bluff Headlands On Track for Expansion

The Door County Parks Department is taking steps to expand Door Bluff Headlands County Park by purchasing over 70 acres of land adjacent to the park’s southern border.

“We’ve always had a low-key eye on this property,” said George Pinney, Director of Door County Parks. “We don’t usually pursue things like that, except to put it in our minds and then consider action if it comes up for sale.”

The property became available earlier this year, when members of the Jeanette Hidding family offered to sell it to the county rather than to developers, despite the lower purchasing price the county is able to offer. The Hiddings, who have owned the property since the early 1900s, are also in the process of selling a parcel of land to the town of Liberty Grove and will maintain a sizable area of land for their own purposes.

The county and the Hiddings are currently working to finalize a contract to purchase, stating that the county is interested in buying the property and will make a good-faith effort to raise the necessary funds – at a price currently set at $1.1 million. After the contract to purchase has been signed (Pinney hopes it will be finalized by the end of 2008), the county parks system will have about two years to raise money for the purchase.

Though the county has no funds set aside for park expansions like this one, Pinney believes the unique position and properties of Door Bluff make this purchase worthwhile.

“The park has been in the system since the late 1940s, and it’s sitting on the very top of the mainland of Door County – it’s the furthest northern point of the county mainland by about 16 feet.” The park also features the faded remnants of Indian hieroglyphics, left by the tribes who used to fight battles there, and a “council ring” (a fire pit surrounded by stone walls, designed for discussion or meditation) built by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen.

In preparing the contract to purchase the Hidding property, the Door County Parks Department subjected the area to a rigorous state-certified appraisal. The appraisal found the property to be (in Pinney’s words) “undisturbed, uncontaminated, and similar to what we already have in the park” – a pristine example of land atop the Niagara Escarpment.

If the purchase goes through, it will make Door Bluff the peninsula’s largest county park, bringing the park’s total area to over 200 acres – a veritable giant among other Door County parks, most of which have areas under 40 acres.

In order to raise the funds necessary to purchase the Hidding property, Pinney will begin writing grant applications immediately after finalizing the contract to purchase. In conjunction with the Door County Land Trust, who are partnering with the parks department to help raise money for the purchase, Pinney will apply for grants from state, federal, and private sources, including stewardship grants and grants from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program. The county is also accepting donations through Friends of the Door County Park System, a 501(c)3 group, and contributions can be set aside strictly for this purchase if they are so designated.

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