Looking Back at the 4th Sustainability Issue

Our fourth annual Door County Sustainability Issue hit the streets in April, part of our continuing efforts to inspire new ways of thinking about how we live on the Door Peninsula. The issue is dedicated to spreading the word about steps toward a more sustainable future for the peninsula, as well as ideas to take the next steps.

In this year’s issue we highlighted two encouraging trends often overlooked as Door County grew and developed in the last two decades – preservation and re-purposing.

In “Strange Bedfellows,” Myles Dannhausen Jr. looked at the connection between development and preservation that is rarely acknowledged.

“What most consider an era of unchecked development,” Dannhausen wrote, “could also be called Door County’s age of preservation.”

In the past 10 years, villages, towns, the County of Door, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and preservation organizations anteed up to protect land and expand public access, to the tune of $43,750,000. According to the Door County Real Property Listing Department, that’s how much has been spent in the last decade to purchase some of the county’s most scenic and important ecological properties for preservation and public use.

Those purchases brought nearly 5,000 acres into the public domain, most of them open for hiking, skiing, kayaking, and other low-impact activities. It includes 18,255 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline that has been opened to the public. Gone unnoticed is the fact that more shoreline is open to public access today than at any time since the 1800s.

Ironically, today it’s the development of expensive homes and condominiums that has provided the tax revenue to pay for the expensive public purchases made by the County of Door and its municipalities. And it’s those parks and protected places that increase the value of those homes and condominiums.

The age of preservation and the era of development are indeed strange bedfellows in Door County’s latest evolution.

In “Doors Into History,” Peninsula Pulse intern Andrew Phillps looked at several buildings around the peninsula that have been re-purposed for new uses. Buildings like the old Egg Harbor town hall, now the Patricia Shoppe, and the old Newport School, which is now home to Uncle Tom’s Newport School Candies.

Giving a second life to old buildings may not be as flashy as building a gleaming new LEED-certified office tower, but such efforts are vital in cutting back our superfluous use of precious resources while maintaining pieces of our community heritage.