Don’t Give Away Acres of State Park
State allowing for-profit golf course to take over public land on Lake Michigan.
The threat to pristine land next to and even inside a popular state park on the Lake Michigan shoreline is getting more serious.
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board agreed at a regularly-scheduled meeting Wednesday to allow The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to begin amending the master plan which manages land use in and access to the popular, publicly-owned Kohler-Andrae State Park south of Sheboygan.
The move by Wisconsin’s resource policy and oversight board despite organized opposition at the grassroots likely helps pave the way – – literally – – to accommodate construction of a privately-owned golf course in the 247-acre wetland/timber/rare-dune-and native peoples’ artifact-rich nature preserve next door. The Kohler Co. wants to bulldoze, cut, fill and otherwise convert a nature preserve — a beautiful, rare, open and forested Great Lakes sand dune ecosystem — into a high-end golf course along Lake Michigan.
Meaning that the Board joins other public agencies smoothing the way for the golf course and its well-connected prime mover, including:
* GOP Gov. Scott Walker‘s ‘chamber of commerce mentality’ Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It has worked at no charge with the developer for about two years to refine permit planning;
* Walker’s Department of Administration. It has placed no barriers to slow down a fast-paced effort by the Kohler Co. to annex the nature preserve to the City of Sheboygan from the smaller, neighboring Town of Wilson, where the nature preserve and local opponents are located.
Former Kohler-Andrae State Park Superintendent Jim Buchholz, who retired in 2013 after 36 years with DNR, had earlier raised strong objections to the project and ceding control of any park land to a private business, saying, in part:
The Dept. of Natural Resources has no right and nor any responsibility to “give away” 4-plus acres of publicly-owned state park land to anyone, especially to a “for-profit” business or person for the purpose of increasing the revenue of such business or to increase the income of any person or corporation.
The EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] document map shows a total of over 19 acres that are being considered for Kohler’s development with no detail as to the actual footprint of the development. The EIS mentions the size of maintenance building to be constructed on state park lands but does not state the size of the paved parking lot that would need to service the proposed maintenance building.
The area listed for conversion is listed as “lightly used”… as if it doesn’t matter if the land is given away or not.
This is far from the truth. The area may not be used as heavily as the park’s beach and picnic areas but this was by design by park management…
“There is no reason to take away public state park land and destroy rare sand dune formations and habitat for Kohler’s shop building and parking area development when they have 247 acres of their own property to work with…
This unique forest, dune and wetland area is an extension of the rare sand dune ecosystem that is currently protected and managed by the DNR on the Kohler-Andrae State Park property.”
Buchholz makes clear that the acreage the developer seeks inside the park is not scrub, insignificant or otherwise unimportant land:
“In reality the entire area is an extension of the State Natural Area across the road and is comprised of open and wood sand dune formations complete with rare vegetation and active habitat for the area’s wildlife.”