Cedar Gorge acquisition ‘very, very close’

Official who biked around Lake Michigan to raise money for purchase says Land Trust is closing in on nature preserve fundraising goal that county may aid with loan

OZAUKEE COUNTY DIRECTOR of Planning and Parks Andrew Struck paused along a wide sandy beach while on his 15-day fundraising bike ride around Lake Michigan last month. Struck undertook the ride, going from his Grafton home to Muskegon, Mich., and raised about $4,600 to help Ozaukee Washington Land Trust buy the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs Nature Preserve, improve the Ozaukee Interurban Trail and build a staircase to the lake at Virmond Park in Mequon. Photos by Andrew
Ozaukee Press staff

County officials are preparing for the September acquisition of the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs Nature Preserve on Port Washington’s far south side, with the Natural Resources Committee expected to consider providing a short-term loan to help with the purchase.

The committee will consider a request that the County Board provide as much as $1.05 million toward the project to cover grant money that has already been approved but may not be in hand when the land is purchased by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.

Andrew Struck, the county’s director of planning and parks, said the county is doing due diligence on two grants — one for $450,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency and the other for $600,000 from the U.S. Forest Service — and will likely have those funds in hand before the closing date, but if it doesn’t, the so-called bridge loan will allow the purchase to move ahead.

“It’s for if we wouldn’t be able to get those funds before the closing,” Struck said. “I don’t think it’s going to be needed, but it’s always good to plan for contingencies.

“It’s kind of a belt and suspender approach.”

The Land Trust is “very, very close” to meeting its goal of raising $5.2 million to buy the 132-acre parcel, Struck said, adding that the leadership is “looking at its options if they’re a little short of funds (by the closing date).”

Struck is among the latest donors, having completed a 15-day fundraising bike ride around much of Lake Michigan on July 31.

The ride, which raised about $4,600, was to raise money not just for Cedar Gorge but also improvements to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail and a staircase to Lake Michigan at Virmond Park in Mequon.

“It was incredible,” Struck said. “It was a challenge.”

Struck took off from his Grafton home on July 16, and traveled around the lake to Muskegon, Mich., where he headed home in the comfort of his automobile — his wife Shelby and their Labrador Oakley were his support and gear team, trailing him along the way.

He said he had only one major incident along the way, while he was in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near St. Ignace on July 23. He was on Highway 2, a significant portion of which was under construction, on a road that was in poor shape. It was narrow, with fast traffic passing him on the shoulder, which was littered with debris.

“There was something on the shoulder, a large piece of concrete or metal, and I didn’t see it,” Struck said. “I hit it pretty hard at a pretty fast speed.”

He didn’t crash, he said, but the rim of his tire was bent and two of the spokes were  broken. He went off route and found a bike shop in Harbor Springs about an hour before it closed that Saturday. They replaced the tire and tube, and Struck spent half of the next day straightening the spokes and doing mechanical adjustments before hitting the road again.

For the most part, Struck said, the trails and routes he traversed were easy to follow — although he got lost once, on his last day when he rode 100 miles.

“I only went eight miles out of my way, but eight is enough when you’re riding 100,” Struck said.

He had gone straight instead of turning, and when he doubled back, he discovered the turn sign he missed was covered by a tree.

Struck logged his journey on his GoFundMe page, writing about the wildlife he saw along the way and his experiences and natural features, such as the Tunnel of Trees on Highway 119.

“Every day there was a theme of some sort for me,” Struck said, adding that the Tunnel of Trees was “gorgeous. It’s quite long, super twisty, through a mature forest. It’s super beautiful.”

He’s glad he wrote it down, he said, because right now “it’s all a little bit of a blur.”

“There were really cool trail systems throughout,” he said. “Very, very nice parks and nature preserves along the way, and good rest stops and overlooks.”

He stopped at many, Struck said, and came back with numerous ideas for Ozaukee County’s parks and trails, including different designs for the Virmond Park staircase.

“It’s always nice to see other parks, to get to experience them from a different perspective,” he said. “It’s such a different perspective from seeing it in a car. It was very worthwhile.”

For the most part, Struck said, the weather was good.

“I had a couple hot days,” he said, although the first week temperatures reached 90 degrees, slowing his progress a bit.

Rain was another factor. The worst, he said, was while he was passing a field of sunflowers in the wide open when a pop-up shower hit.

“It just came down sideways,” Struck said. “I didn’t have anywhere to hide. I just got soaked.”

Struck said the ride was something he had wanted to do for some time, and it’s fueling him to reach farther. For now, though, he plans to complete his journey around the lake and raise additional money along the way. He will ride around the Door County peninsula later this month and in September tackle the leg from Muskegon to Indiana Dunes.

“If I’m feeling really inspired, I’ll do Chicago too,” he said. “It’s fun.  I got to see a lot and I met a lot of really fabulous people along the way. It was the experience of a lifetime.”


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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