Letter to the Editor: Newport Wilderness Society Indebted to G. Leonard Apfelbach

The Newport Wilderness Society and the people of Wisconsin lost a good friend and benefactor with the passing of Dr. G. Leonard “Len” Apfelbach. 

I recently received two very different email messages that were actually linked. The first asked whether the Newport Wilderness Society had an upcoming astronomy program at Newport State Park – the writer wanted to see the Milky Way. I told her that our programs are on hold due to the pandemic. The second message was about the June 25 passing of Dr. Apfelbach, who was active in the Newport Wilderness Society.

One of the society’s accomplishments last summer was restoring the Hotz gate through a mostly volunteer effort and an anonymous donation. (A planned dedication ceremony has now been postponed.)

The stone gate on Europe Bay Road was the entrance to the Hotz family’s summer home from 1915 until 1978, and today it’s the entrance to the Hotz Trail, which links to the Europe Bay Trail. Ferdinand Hotz built the home on 170 acres of land with more than three miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and overlooking Europe Lake – one of the county’s most beautiful tracts. 

Dr. Apfelbach, who was Ferdinand Hotz’s grandson, eventually inherited this property. In 1978, he sold it to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It forms the north end of Newport State Park. Because of that transfer, we have seven miles of hiking, biking and ski trails and several wilderness campsites. Dr. Apfelbach stipulated that the land must remain undeveloped, and the DNR agreed.

This transfer also means our country has a “dark sky” along Newport’s Lake Michigan shore: one of only three certified dark-sky parks east of the Mississippi River.

Here the two emails converge. If Dr. Apfelbach hadn’t sold this land to the DNR in 1978, we might not have a dark sky to see the Milky Way. Thanks, Len.

Dr. Apfelbach also wrote The Ferdinand Hotz Legacy, which honors the Hotz family’s history. 

Gene Kenny

Office of the President, Newport Wilderness Society

Ellison Bay, Wisconsin