As a former alderman and mayor in Sturgeon Bay, I read Paul Burton’s recent letter with interest and disagreed with just about everything he said about my hometown. My family has a long history of service and involvement in a number of developments in Sturgeon Bay and the downtown waterfront areas as well.
When I served as alderman and then as mayor, many buildings in the waterfront areas of downtown were mostly abandoned and deteriorating, especially the two blocks north of the downtown bridge. The city leaders and many citizens alike wished to revitalize that area and the lower west side with both business and public access to the waterfront in mind. Further, it all needed to be done without the local taxpayers footing the bill.
Over the next 10 years or so, we were able to attract developers to provide the business element necessary to pay taxes over many years to come at Stone Harbor Resort, Bridgeport Resort, (now) Sonny’s Restaurant and more. What local citizens got is way more access to the downtown waterfront than ever before including waterfront and near waterfront parks to enjoy. My wife and I enjoy walking these areas often and watch others doing the same or just watching boats go by or children fishing from areas now made available through such development. I am proud of how our city has evolved and was able to revitalize those areas in need, providing benefit to the public and bringing more tourists to our city as well.
Since the efforts began, the tourist industry has done so well that it now ranks just behind Gibraltar in annual room tax revenues, thanks in part to such resorts as Stone Harbor and Bridgeport. Sturgeon Bay locals all remember the days when tourists would stop in town and talk about being “on their way north to Door County.” We don’t hear that so much anymore.
We should continue this effort in the lower westside maritime district with similar development including more pubic access and amenities as well. It can all work together quite well if we allow it to happen.
I invite you, Paul Burton of Ephraim, to visit Sturgeon Bay on a warm summer evening to walk the lower downtown areas of our city. Stop by Sonny’s for an ice cream cone before you meander out on the railroad spur to watch the boat traffic and marvel at the ships being repaired or built at Bay Ship. Enjoy the music along the waterfront of Stone Harbor on a lazy Sunday afternoon or come to a concert on Wednesday evenings at Martin Park. I hope you come to understand and respect that leaders have thought about more than just business and have indeed considered and fulfilled the public good, therefore insuring that Sturgeon Bay, just like Ephraim, remain a special place in Door County.
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.