Redmann Purchase Would Not Cost Taxpayers

Another attempt to get town residents to approve Gibraltar’s purchase of the Marise Redmann property comes with a plan to expand Fish Creek Park.

The town’s idea to buy part of the Redmann property is nothing new. In fact, it’s been discussed at the town level for about 15 years, according to town chair Steve Sohns. What is new is the approach to the purchase. 

The last time Gibraltar called on its electors to approve the purchase was in October 2019, when the town’s plan to spend $2.15 million on 195 acres was rejected on a vote of 180 to 51. At that time, the town had proposed to use the land for multimodal trails, an off-road biking hub and an affordable-housing development, all paid for with tax dollars.

This time, the town is asking town electors to vote July 26 for a plan for the town to buy 118.76 acres of the property for $1.5 million using donations and grants. The land is located above the bluff near Highway 42 behind the Settlement Courtyard Inn property, as well as along the ridge line and below the bluff surrounding Fish Creek, and connecting via a sliver of land to Spring Road on the eastern edge.

Vote, Informational Meetings Scheduled

Qualified electors – town residents who are U.S. citizens and at least 18 years old – may vote on the property purchase during a July 26, 6 pm, meeting at the Gibraltar Fire Station, 3496 Cty F in Fish Creek. Two public informational meetings will be held July 20 in advance of the vote, and a third will be held July 24, 4 pm, in the boardroom of the town center, 4097 Hwy 42 in Fish Creek.

The purchased land would be added to the 27-acre Fish Creek Park, which has a trailhead across from the Peninsula State Park entrance. Combined with 6.23 acres of property that Redmann donated to the town, the expanded park would measure just over 150 acres.

Five of those acres have been designated for “park-like improvements”: developments such as parking lots, gazebos or playgrounds, according to town administrator Travis Thyssen. 

The remaining land would be used for public trails – potentially including the multimodal trail envisioned to connect Egg Harbor, Gibraltar, Ephraim and Sister Bay, Thyssen said – as well as watershed conservation. The latter is one of the original reasons the town considered purchasing the property, according to Sohns.

Turning the property into a public park is an “ideal situation” for Redmann, who said in an email that her family has pursued myriad options for the future of the property during the 37 years since her parents died. Those options have included turning the property into a golf course or a nature conservancy, or adding it either to the Door County Land Trust or Peninsula State Park. Those options were not ideal for various reasons: They didn’t allow for biking or for conservation or just didn’t pan out. 

The Redmann property in Fish Creek would add 126 acres to Fish Creek Park. Photo by Brett Kosmider.

“I am so pleased that the goals and dreams of the Town of Gibraltar and my family are finally aligned,” Redmann wrote.

A New Plan

The town’s new plan for the Redmann property is different from the 2019 pitch in two key ways.

First, the town’s land would be used only to expand Fish Creek Park and not for housing, which had been part of the 2019 plan that many electors took issue with, according to Sohns. 

The town was able to drop this part of the plan because Redmann agreed to split up the property, separating parts of the lower portion of the bluff, which contains more wetlands, from the upper portion, which could be more easily used for a housing development, Sohns said. If the town made the purchase, Redmann would still retain control of a significant part of the property above the bluff, according to Tad Gilster, a real estate broker who’s working with both Redmann and the town. 

SLIDESHOW: Redmann Property Photos by Brett Kosmider.

The second key difference is that the project can only be funded through grants and donations, with no general fund tax dollars involved.

“It’s written into the [purchase] agreement,” Thyssen said.

The town already has a confirmed $449,000 in grants for the project: $249,000 from Natural Resource Damage Assessment and $250,000 for a right-of-way acquisition with TID #1, according to Thyssen. 

The town has applied for funding from Ducks Unlimited and the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, and it has met to discuss Destination Door County’s Community Investment Fund, Thyssen said. 

The Redmann property in Fish Creek would add 126 acres to Fish Creek Park. Photo by Brett Kosmider.

Several people have also approached the town with intentions of donating funds if the town needs to augment the grant money.

Thyssen said he’s confident in their ability to secure enough through grants and donations and the agreement with Redmann gives the town five years to do so.

“We can write [grants] until we get enough,” Thyssen said.

Sohns said that these changes to the original plan will hopefully enable it to go further this time around. He noted that it wasn’t a lack of interest in buying the Redmann property that made the plan fail the first time – electors have said during the town’s 2021 and 2022 annual meetings that they wanted the town to pursue the property for park land, Thyssen said  – it was specific parts of the plan that have since been addressed.

“I hope to remind people that this is something the electors have been asking for,” Sohns said. “We haven’t stopped trying – it’s just that last time, we couldn’t get exactly what we wanted.”

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