A gravel trail and small wooden boardwalk in Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve.

Ozaukee County Natural Resources Committee May Provide Bridge Loan for Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs

County officials are preparing for the September acquisition of the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs Nature Preserve in Port Washington.

Ozaukee County officials on the Natural Resources Committee will consider a request to provide up to $1.05 million to Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) to close the gap in funds needed to purchase the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs Nature Preserve in Port Washington.

The county could support the land trust with a short-term loan to help with the purchase to cover grant money that has already been approved but may not be in hand when OWLT has the opportunity to purchase the property in September.

The two grants are $450,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency and $600,000 from the U.S. Forest Service. The funds will likely be available before the closing date, but if not, the county is considering this “so-called bridge loan” to allow the purchase to move ahead, according to the Ozaukee Press.

The land trust is close to meeting its goal of $5.2 million to purchase the 132-acre property, but is exploring the options to ensure it has the funds to purchase the nature preserve when the opportunity is available.

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

Struck himself is supporting the land trust’s efforts, having recently completed a 15-day fundraising bike ride around part of Lake Michigan, raising about $4,600 for the Cedar Gorge project and improvements to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail and Virmond Park in Mequon. Struck has additional rides planned later this summer.

Ozaukee Washington Land Trust only finds itself in this precarious position with funding after a $2.3 million Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grant was stalled by an anonymous objection after a private buyer showed interest.

Featured image by Aaron Volkening, 2016.

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