State Hires Wood Expert to Stabilize Potawatomi Tower

The Potawatomi State Park observation tower is being stabilized.

The state hired the same company to do the job that assessed the tower four years ago for the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society Foundation (SBHSF): Dan Tingley with Timber Restoration Services (TRS) in Oregon, also known as Wood Research and Development. The SBHSF had hired the company in 2019 to assess the tower, and in May of this year, the state hired the company to update that first inspection

“We’re absolutely thrilled,” said Christie Weber, a former SBHSF board member and the board president when SBHSF hired Tingley in 2019. 

“We’re so, so happy with our state recognizing this as such a treasure, and that they worked bipartisan. It’s a real story of community.”

A copy of the Aug. 23 letter from the State Department of Administration to TRS delivered a fully executed contract to the firm to do the work for $467,371 beginning on or after Aug. 24, with completion required by Nov. 30. 

Melissa “Missy” VanLanduyt, DNR recreation partnerships section chief, said by email to the Peninsula Pulse that the work is part of the $500,000 emergency order Gov. Tony Evers authorized in March to stabilize the tower and is for emergency stabilization only.

“The tower will remain closed to the public until the Department of Administration can design and construct the project approved in the capital budget, which will provide the other needed restoration work and ensure the tower will be safe for the public to traverse,” VanLanduyt said.

Evers had included $6,060,000 within his capital budget to revitalize the tower with an adjoining helical ramp that would allow people with mobility impairments to access the 75-foot views. That plan was replaced in the final 2023-25 budget – which Evers signed July 5 – with $500,000 that both Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) and Sen. André Jacque (R-De Pere) had requested to restore the tower.

“No schedule has been developed for additional restoration work until stabilization work is further along and the engineers working on the project can confirm the integrity of the stabilization work,” VanLanduyt said.

As of the deadline for this issue of the Pulse, details were pending about the scope of the project and exactly when the work would begin.

The DNR closed the 1931 tower in 2017 due to significant wood decay and decided to tear it down. The SBHSF believed the tower could be repaired, got the tower listed on the Wisconsin and National Registers of Historic Places, and secured the 2019 assessment from Tingley. At the time, he determined the tower could be fixed for less than $250,000. 

From there, it took years of additional assessments, surveys, political posturing and grass-roots local support to get to the contract that was issued last week to stabilize the historical structure.