Door County offers five popular state parks, three of them in Northern Door, as well as a number of county parks and Land Trust properties. But for those who like to relax far from the madding crowd, the Township of Liberty Grove maintains 14 small public parks.
Visitors to the top of the peninsula might pass those areas by without notice, but those who discover them will find unexpected pleasure. A number of these areas are secluded, and nearly every one offers a water view.
While some include as amenities picnic tables and a restroom, others provide only a place to park and maybe a bench. A few feature beaches, but most are perfect sites for observing the changing perspectives of the waters of Green Bay or Lake Michigan.
Liberty Grove Clerk/Administrator Walter “Bud” Kalms believes the township is lucky to have these parks available for the public. “High monetary values placed on shore property make access to the water difficult unless a person is fortunate enough to be able to afford a beachfront lot,” he said. “The parks adjacent to the bays and lakes in the town make it possible for all to enjoy the beauty and experience what nature has to offer along our miles of shoreline.”
Below is a guided tour of Liberty Grove’s township parks; the route generally follows scenic back roads. Some of them are excellent places to take children to play or swim; some are appropriate for launching boats or kayaks; some are perfect locations for a private picnic; and some are ideal for quiet contemplation.
Be aware that the township charges for boat launches, and that dogs are generally not allowed in parks.
A DRIVING TOUR
1. Grandview Park
To begin a driving tour of these parks follow Hwy. 42 north toward Ellison Bay, and at the top of the hill that leads down to the village, Grandview Park is located to your left, next to the Liberty Grove Historical Society, 11871 Hwy. 42. Use parking on that property to stroll the park or sit on a bench admiring a spectacular view of the waters of Green Bay.
2. Ellison Bay Community Park
Near the foot of the hill leading into the village sits on your left the Ellison Bay Community Park, 11953 Hwy. 42. In addition to a sheltered swimming beach, the park includes picnic tables, grills, a children’s playground, tennis courts, toilet facilities, a gazebo and the Women’s Club building that can be rented for social occasions.
3. Wills Park and Marina
Continue into Ellison Bay and turn left onto Cedar Shore Road at the Pioneer Store. Wills Park and Marina, 12033 Cedar Shore Road, offers boat launching and slip rental; an adjacent small park offers benches with a fine view of sunsets.
4. Fitzgerald Park
After returning to Hwy. 42 and driving north, turn left in Ellison Bay at Gus Klenke’s garage onto Garrett Bay Road. Still within the village at the corner of Old School Road and Garrett Bay Road is Fitzgerald Park, 1594 Old School Road. The park features a playground, covered picnic area with tables and grill, toilet facilities, a baseball diamond, basketball hoops, and in winter, a skating rink.
5. Garrett Bay Park
Return to Garrett Bay Road turning right toward the bay, and after a two-mile scenic drive that descends to the water, you will find Garrett Bay Park, 1310 Garrett Bay Road. While a boat launch is available as well as a picnic table, grill, bench, and portable toilet, a major attraction is the visible underwater ribbing of the Fleetwing, a ship sunk in the late 1800s near to shore and easily viewed by snorkeling.
6. Gills Rock Park
Continue north on Garrett Bay Road, turn left on Cottage Road and in Gills Rock continue north on Hwy. 42. As you leave the village, next to the Maritime Museum at 12724 Wisconsin Bay Road, you will find Gills Rock Park, offering a covered picnic area with tables and grills, benches and extensive playground apparatus, restroom facilities, and volleyball nets.
7. Wisconsin Bay Park
Return to Hwy. 42 and after a short drive north turn left on Wisconsin Bay Road and after another short drive, you will come to Wisconsin Bay Park at 740 Wisconsin Bay Road. This walking park offers picnic tables and grill, and a beautiful panorama of Death’s Door waters.
Back on Hwy. 42 continue driving toward the Northport ferry dock where you will turn left on Kenosha Drive and after a short drive, at 12832 Kenosha Drive you will arrive at Porte des Morts (Death’s Door) Park, which offers another impressive view of the Death’s Door waters, and for your convenience, benches, picnic tables, grill, and portable toilet. A stairway from the bluff down to the shore is planned as a future development.
9. Isle View Park
Return to Hwy. 42, drive south, and turn left on Timberline Road for less than a mile, turning left at Isle View Road. As you approach Lake Michigan you will see Isle View Park, a small gem of an area with a picnic table, grill and benches for admiring the view from the overlook of lake waters.
10. Europe Lake Boat Launch
Continue south on Timberline Road a couple miles and turn left on Europe Lake Road. At the end of the road you will come to the launch and dock for small boats at 460 Europe Lake Road. A small grassy area offers a picnic table and grill with a view of the inland lake, as well as a portable toilet.
11. Hotz Memorial Town Park
Back on Timberline Road driving south, take the next left on Europe Bay Road (across from Uncle Tom’s Candy Store) and at the end of that road you will arrive at Hotz Memorial Town Park, 349 Europe Bay Road. Located at the edge of the expansive Europe Bay sand beach it is surrounded by Newport State Park. The wooded setting provides picnic tables, grills and toilet facilities.
12. Rowleys Bay Launch
Return south on Europe Bay Road, past the Baptist Church to the intersection with Hwy. 42, and in downtown Ellison Bay, turn left on Mink River Road. After a couple miles, turn left on Cty ZZ to Rowleys Bay Resort (1041 Cty ZZ), on the shore of Lake Michigan. Presently the DNR owns the launch area and marina, but the Liberty Grove annual pass can be used; the launch officially will become Liberty Grove property in 2016.
13. Sand Bay Town Park
Return to Mink River Road, turn left, and then after a mile left again on Waters End Road, and after a half mile left on Sand Bay Lane near the end of Waters End Road. Watching for Sand Bay Town Park on the right at 11154 Sand Bay Lane. This park offers a sand beach with shallow water, a kayak launch, a swing set, picnic tables, grills and toilet facilities. This spot is child-friendly and especially pleasant under the morning sun.
14. North Bay Boat Launch
Return to Waters End Road, drive west about a mile and turn left on Cty ZZ, following the route about three miles to North Bay Road, and after another three miles at that the end of that road, you will find the North Bay Boat Launch, 9883 North Bay Road. The launch is suitable for small boats. Benches are provided for admiring the view of the bay.
Old-timers may occasionally lament that the Door County they once knew has disappeared because of continuing development, but finding the charm of that Door County is a matter of knowing where to look, of keeping far from the madding crowd. If you are an armchair traveler, you may experience these 14 parks from the comfort of your easy chair by visiting libertygrove.org and clicking on Park and Picnic Areas.