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Ozaukee County group racing to raise $1.6M to conserve lakefront property before time runs out

Posted at 4:11 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 19:29:39-04

CEDAR GORGE CLAY BLUFFS, Wis. — The remarkable 131-acre Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs property that lies along Lake Michigan is for sale. And Tom Stolp, the executive director of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, is one of many fighting to preserve it.

"There's been different iterations over the last decade of trying to strike that right balance of conservation with the need for more development," said Stolp.

For the past 10 years, the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust has been trying to buy the property, with the idea of transforming the area into a space for people to enjoy the outdoors while also protecting wildlife.

"I think it would be a wonderful addition to this area," said one nearby parkgoer, Katie Vaness. "It's home to people but it's also their home, so whatever we can do to keep the natural wildlife in its existing spaces."

The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust thought they'd have the money they needed to buy the property, but an unexpected hurdle stopped them in their tracks.

"We were supposed to receive a $2.3 million grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Knowles Nelson Stewardship program," said Stolp. "Our grant has been blocked, it's been objected to anonymously by a lawmaker."

That grant would have allowed the non-profit to buy the land from Waukesha State Bank, and start the conservation project. The trust has until September to close on its contract with the bank. If it can't come up with the money by then, another buyer could come in and develop the land.

"We have an important deadline," said Stolp. "We are feverishly working to raise funds."

To donate to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust's conservation efforts, click here.

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