Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) purchased the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs property in Port Washington for $5 million after receiving $2.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding awarded by Gov. Tony Evers.
The property has been transferred to Ozaukee County, which will manage the park as Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs Nature Preserve. OWLT will place a conservation easement on the entire property to ensure the land will be protected forever.
As quoted in this article by the Ozaukee Press, “It belongs to the people of Ozaukee County and will be preserved forever,” Land Trust Executive Director Tom Stolp said. “Congratulations to us all — it’s great for the community.”
The 131-acre property includes three-quarters of a mile of shoreline along Lake Michigan. The property was previously owned by Waukesha State Bank, and the purchase is the result of years of fundraising and advocacy work to preserve the land.
The journey to acquire the property has not been easy. The project was initially slated to receive $2.3 million from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, granted through the Department of Natural Resources, but a member of the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee anonymously objected, making this source of funding suddenly uncertain and unlikely. The land trust agreed to a proposed lesser award of $1.6 million, but this also never came to fruition after an anonymous buyer expressed interest in the property, effectively halting the grant proposal until Gov. Evers stepped in with the allocation of American Rescue Plan Act dollars toward the project.
The land trust is working with federal and state agencies, as well as donors, to come up with a plan for proper use of the funds received to manage and restore the land and make it available to the public for recreation and enjoyment. OWLT will also work with Ozaukee County to develop a land management plan.
Learn more about the property and the land trust’s plans here.
Featured image by Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.