Potawatomi State Park is a magical park on the peninsula of Door County, Wisconsin. The DNR has been cutting down large numbers of trees in the park’s most pristine natural area to build an RV group campground.
According to my estimate, they have cut down at least one thousand mature trees for this new campground.
However, there is an abandoned former campground/ski area on the other side of the park. This area has weed covered roads and parking areas as well as refuse laying about, and could be reclaimed as a campground. There are many tall trees, and it should be cleaned up and used, it is already quite scenic:
However, the DNR would rather cut down trees, many of which are 75 years old and older. The DNR justifies this by saying they are just following the park’s master plan. However, they are not following the master plan because these trees are being cut southeast of where the master plan says the group campground should go:
They are not following the master plan.
Furthermore, when the master plan was approved over 21 years ago (1987), the ski area was still in use. However, the broken glass and the decay of the wooden ski lodge testify that this area has been abandoned for many years. The master plan is out of date.
The DNR should halt construction on this new campground until the master plan can be updated so that there can be public input regarding this project. The master plan for Potawatomi State Park will now be updated in the next 2 to 3 years.
If they continue with this new RV group campground before updating the master plan, there will be nothing left for the public to plan. These trees belong to the people of Wisconsin, not the DNR. The people should be consulted before they are cut, not after.
Finally, I believe that these trees are being cut so that the DNR could contract the lumber. Selling lumber is profitable, picking up garbage is not:
Nonetheless, the purpose of our State Park System is to preserve these special places for future generations, not just to make short term profit for today’s DNR.
The DNR’s latest “excuses” are that the old ski area gets too hot in the Summertime and doesn’t have access to trails or other park amenities. However, there is a trail right at the top of the hill, one at the bottom of the hill that runs north, and another one that comes down the hill and goes right past the abandoned lodge. Last year, the Door County Visitor Bureau produced a video of people mountain biking down that trail:
The tour guide in the video notes that the trails near the old ski area are especially “gorgeous,” and the biker in the video is riding the very trail that runs right past the abandoned ski lodge.
Nonetheless, the DNR says there is no access to trails.
Furthermore, the abandoned ski area has electrical lines, while the natural area where they are cutting trees does not. The new RV group campground will not have electrical hook ups. Therefore, the abandoned ski area would have more access to park amenities because it would have electricity.
Regarding the Summer heat, I remember there being many homes near the park boundary (Gitche Gumee Road), and Google Earth confirms that there are numerous homes across the road from the abandoned ski area. Apparently, it’s not too hot to live there, but according to the DNR, it’s too hot to camp in an RV (with electrical hook ups).
This picture is a satellite overview from Google Earth. Please note the private homes across the road from the old ski area and the land for sale around the park.
Finally, the DNR says there is a “demonstrable need” for group camping. But there is also a “demonstrable need” for outdoor public nature areas that do not smell of hot dogs, campfires, and outhouses. There is also a “demonstrable need” for nature trails. But this project is degrading the nature trails on the south end of the park into mere “campground trails.”
I believe the DNR located that campground there, not because they had to, but rather so that they could sell/contract the lumber. Why else would they pick an area of the park where the trees were the tallest, thickest, and most beautiful? What is the going rate for a 90 year old hardwood tree?
- Additional Photographs
- Additional Blog Posts
- The Door County Environmental Council has become involved with this issue.
- Office of the Governor
- Wisconsin State Legislature
- Wisconsin DNR
- Potawatomi State Park
- Friends of Wisconsin State Parks
- Wisconsin Natural Resources Board