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Statement from Friends of Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront on federal court decision

Jan 27, 2016

Below is a statement from the Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront on yesterday's decision from a federal court in support of the City of Sturgeon Bay's motion to dismiss the Friends' challenge to City’s proposed sale of Public Trust land. The group will continue to exercise their legal rights to protect the public land.

The efforts by this citizen group are a testament to the residents' passion for waterfront development in their community that is truly welcoming and accessible to the public. Their efforts, also, are another example of how the costs and burdens of defending public rights to our natural resources are very much shouldered by citizens who have to work overtime to keep their place at the decision-making table.

“The Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront will continue its positive and productive efforts to develop a vibrant public waterfront in Sturgeon Bay and to ensure a more inclusive and citizen-driven vision for Sturgeon Bay’s future despite today’s ruling regarding the court venue,” said member Dan Collins. “Our efforts, ideas, energy and engagement have been well received by the community of Sturgeon Bay. The people of Sturgeon Bay understand that a better process is needed for making decisions that will affect the future of Sturgeon Bay and all of Door County for years to come. We remain committed to that goal and will be working on many fronts to see it happen, including immediately filing in State Court to assert the public’s rights relating to filled lakebed in Sturgeon Bay.”

The Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront was formed to offer a productive alternative to the sale of land along Sturgeon Bay’s westside waterfront to a private developer. One of the founders of the group, Shawn Fairchild, remarked, “This lawsuit is just one component of our agenda. We would like to thank the community for the various ways it has come forward to voice its love for our unique waterfront. Over a thousand people signed petitions; hundreds have shown up for and spoken eloquently at meetings and contributed time, talent and treasure. Just the fact that 200 people have contributed over $50,000 says something about the peoples’ hope for a different vision than what’s currently on the table.”

Collins echoes Fairchild’s gratitude to those who have offered alternate visions and recites some of the accomplishments of the Friends and their supporters. “We have held citizen forums, hosted educational events with experts from around the state on water issues, held exhibits of professional artists’ work inspired by the waterfront. We have organized visits to other cities with similar situations that have successfully engaged their constituents and are winning awards for design work and process. We have offered professionally rendered alternate designs for the waterfront property. We hired a world-class architectural firm and engineering firm to design a vision for a repurposed Granary. We have also created documentation to pursue a listing of the Granary on the National Register of Historic Places based on preliminary approval from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Most of our work is captured in materials that are available electronically on the Center Line Community Forum and Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront websites and have been shared with the City of Sturgeon Bay. Finally, discussions with high-level educational facilities throughout the state are underway to assess the possibility of a world-class water studies institute in Sturgeon Bay. I think this is a pretty hefty and impressive list of accomplishments for a relatively short period of time.”

Collins continues, “What happens in Sturgeon Bay is of interest to all of Door County. It’s gratifying to see how many creative and thoughtful people have come forward to support a vision that preserves our history and builds on our unique attributes. This sort of thinking will ensure our economic growth and stability far into the future.”

More information about the Friends group and how to get involved is available at www.friendsofsturgeonbaypublicwaterfront.com. Financial contributions are needed and may be made online at https://www.gofundme.com/sblegaldefensefund, dropped off at Associated Bank or sent to Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront Fund, PO Box 534, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235. Donations will be kept confidential by request. Contributions of any size are greatly appreciated.

For more on Midwest Environmental Advocates' role in this litigation, please visit our action page.

/ tagged: public trust doctrine