Throughout the first half of the 1990s, Bill Scholten looked forward to taking part in the October Run Wild! at Potawatomi State Park.
He had taken part in five wild runs, but when he did not receive an application for the 1995 run, Scholten stopped by the park office just after Labor Day and learned from then-superintendent Arnie Lindauer that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources no longer had funding for the run.
Lindauer told Scholten the only way to make it happen would be to get some locals to fund and manage it.
Scholten said he could probably pull running friends together in Door County, and Lindauer said he had a list of names of people who would love to volunteer at the park, but there was no organization for such a group.
Thus the Friends of Potawatomi State Park was born, incorporated on Dec. 15, 1995, thanks to Sturgeon Bay attorney Jim Ebbeson who volunteered his services for the group’s incorporation papers.
“We had our first run in 1996 and it was a big success, with close to 450 distance runners and a big Smokey Bear group of about 100 kids,” Scholten said. “It made money, so then we started buying equipment for the park.”
Scholten served as race director until a few years ago.
“I turned it over to a younger group,” he said. “We’re still getting in the vicinity of 500 runners, but now it’s a quarter marathon instead of a 10k, then a 5k and the Smokey the Bear run, but we don’t get as many kids anymore.”
Scholten said the Friends group has about 65 members and about 15 sponsors.
“Our sponsors cover all of our expenses, and there is considerable expense with all the chips and computers,” he said.
In addition to buying equipment for the park, Scholten said the Friends also helped to rebuild the amphitheater at the park, and made the playgrounds more kid friendly.
At age 86, Scholten said it has been a while since he has taken part in a Run Wild!, but he has plans to take part when he’s 90, “even if I have to be pushed in a wheelchair,” he said.
Check out our complete coverage of the issues facing Door County’s state parks, the people stepping in to support them, and learn about the history of the parks in our 11th annual Sustainability Issue.