Growing up in Green Bay, Anne Egan remembers being mesmerized by the beauty and variety of the waters of the Fox River and Green Bay. Throughout her life, she has swum, sailed, skied, skated and admired the water that has surrounded her, but it wasn’t until she read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, written by her son Dan Egan, that she realized the Door County community is extremely dependent on water yet largely unaware of the dangers threatening it.
Egan’s aim was to find a way to combat the lackadaisical appreciation of water in Door County. Realizing that she was not alone in taking water for granted, she approached the Door County Community Foundation (DCCF) to develop Celebrate Water Door County as an initiative of the Healthy Water component fund.
“We needed someone with a deep personal passion for this cause and the skill set to inspire people to work together to realize a shared vision,” said Bret Bicoy, DCCF president and CEO. “When Annie stepped forward to volunteer her time to lead the initiative, everything started coming together.”
And indeed, the challenges of Celebrate Water were not only to communicate the need for water protection, but also to convince people that they should care. Here, Egan was invaluable.
“She’s an elegant woman,” said Coggin Heeringa, a Healthy Water board member. “She’s truly gracious and articulate. She has the ability to convince people without making them feel put upon.”
During a yearlong effort that began in June 2018, Celebrate Water coordinated performances, speakers, educational programs and even a community-wide discussion about water in partnership with Door County Reads. The initiative culminated in a three-day Water Summit designed to encourage and promote continued water advocacy in the community. Although the initiative’s various events were met with enthusiasm, Celebrate Water’s real triumph was its ability to cultivate community dialogue.
“Celebrate Water was successful not because of the incredible number of events that occurred or because the Water Summit was overflowing with participants,” Bicoy said. “It was successful because it got people beyond the environmentalists talking about water as one of our most precious resources.”
Celebrate Water brought the community together in shared appreciation of its environment.
“Without the water, the county would be just another agrarian patch of Wisconsin — beautiful in its own right, but lacking so much that we have come to rely on,” Egan said. “Water is a defining element of this county we call home. So where better to start than at home?”