From Anecdotes to Opportunities

The Door County Coastal Byway (DCCB) committee is one step closer to developing a master plan that will shape how visitors experience the 66-mile loop along Highway 42/57 after hearing residents personal stories and anecdotes.

In 2009, the committee – made up of eight communities, including Liberty Grove, Sister Bay, Baileys Harbor, Jacksonport, Sevastopol, Egg Harbor, Gibraltar, and Ephraim – applied to the Wisconsin DOT in order to secure Scenic Byway Status for the route.

The status was approved in 2010, and in 2011, seven of the eight communities that comprise the byway, which stretches from just north of Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock, used its new status to secure a $138,000 Federal Highway Administration grant.

That grant is now being used to create a plan that will guide the preservation and promotion of not only the roads, but the history of the area. Brainstorming for the plan began at seven information-gathering meetings held in various communities from June 6 – 12.

Jim Buchholz, Michael Gross, and Ron Zimmerman of Schmeeckle Reserve Interpreters, the UW – Stevens Point-based non-profit organization that the committee chose to head the master planning process, used the meetings to explain and ask for help with their group’s objective, which is to create a coherent, interwoven story that connects all of the communities on the byway.

“Instead of just catching something here or there,” said Buchholz, “[visitors] will start to get experiences which will unify that story.”

Those experiences will come via 12 “experience hubs” positioned in key locations throughout the byway communities. Each hub will tell stories about that specific stop on the byway and encourage visitors to travel to other stops.

The interpreters drove the byway themselves before conducting the meetings, using their first impressions to establish initial thoughts on where the hubs should be located. They’re now interested in conferring with the community and gathering as many stories and anecdotes as they can before ultimately putting a comprehensive plan together.

“There’ll be numerous trips here in the summer and the fall,” says Zimmerman. “[At first], we’ll have more questions than answers, but that’s the way it always is.”

When the plan is developed, it will be up to the DCCB committee to actually implement it. DCCB hopes to eventually use the improvements as a springboard towards applying to the federal government for National Scenic Byway Status, which would bring increased tourist recognition and grant opportunities.