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Great Lakes Article:

Concordia raising funds to save shore
$12 million in projects planned at university
By Mike Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted Online January 5th, 2004


Mequon - Forces of nature - from waves battering the shoreline to rain and melting snow causing erosion - have been pounding away at the steep Lake Michigan bluffs and beach at Concordia University.

As many as 20,000 tons of soil a year wash away from the land and into the lake, university officials and experts who have studied the problem say.

Erosion is such a problem that it has eaten away about 5 acres of lakeshore property at the 155-acre campus, 12800 N. Lake Shore Drive, since 1982, when Concordia bought the land.

On Wednesday, after nearly five years of study involving the state Department of Natural Resources and engineering experts, Concordia officials announced that the university was embarking on a $12 million fund-raising campaign to save its half-mile of shoreline and make other improvements to the campus.

The plans include $8 million to stabilize the bluffs, $2 million to build an environmental education center where university students and children on school field trips could study the Great Lakes environment, and $2 million for athletic field expansion.

The Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, Concordia's president, unveiled the plans and fund-raising efforts during a luncheon at the university Wednesday with members of the Mequon-Thiensville Chamber of Commerce.

Concordia's plans also were discussed with the Ozaukee County Board at its meeting Wednesday.

Ferry said the university already has raised $4.25 million for the project during what he called the "quiet phase" of fund raising, including two $1 million gifts from donors who wish to remain anonymous.

Another $1 million anonymous donation, he said, is contingent on Concordia having a financing plan in place by June 30.

City approval needed
Concordia would like to start the bluffs project in summer, Ferry said. However, he said the university still must gain approval for its plans from the City of Mequon.

University officials likely will present the proposal to the city's Plan Commission in February or March, said Duane H. Hilgendorf, vice president of both advancement and the Concordia University Wisconsin Foundation.

The work will be done in several phases. The first phase is stabilizing the bluffs, which is expected to take about 18 months.

That work will include:

Grading the bluffs to make them less steep.

Constructing a path on the reshaped bluffs through a series of ramped switchbacks to allow access to the lakefront.

"This stabilization project will allow all who visit our campus to finally walk down to Lake Michigan's shoreline," Ferry said.

"Concordia has a half a mile of shoreline property along Lake Michigan. It's a wonderful setting, and it works really well for recruitment brochures," he said. "But in actual fact, our relationship to Lake Michigan might as well be non-existent in many ways because of how little access we have to the lake and how little we utilize that proximity" to it.

Creating two wetland habitats - one along the shore - to create a wildlife refuge for migratory birds and a home for native plant species.

Planting trees, shrubs and vegetation on the bluffs to protect them.

Constructing a revetment, or protective barrier, at the base of the bluffs and installing breakwater sections into the lake to lessen the impact of the waves on the bluffs.

Creation of a beach, with places for those using kayaks and other personal watercraft to stop. "There will be lots of public access . . . mainly pedestrian access," Ferry said. "It's not going to be a big beach where people are going to come from all over town. It's going to be a place where people who are interested in the environment and who would like to take advantage of being by and on the lake have that opportunity."

The second phase of the project would be the $2 million environmental education center and the $2 million athletic field expansion.

The environmental center would be at the lakefront and have state-of-the-art laboratories. Concordia is adding a major in environmental science. Officials said the center would be open to elementary and high school students across the Milwaukee metropolitan area for field trips and environmental studies.

For the athletic field expansion, the university hopes to acquire 40 acres south of the campus and put soil removed from the bluffs there, officials have said. That land, currently owned by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, would then be converted to athletic fields.

Increased enrollment at the school has created the need for additional athletic fields for both intercollegiate and intramural sports. Concordia has 5,200 undergraduate and graduate students.

University looks to public
Concordia, which was in the national spotlight in May when President Bush visited the campus to give the commencement address to graduating students, is broadening its fund-raising campaign for the bluffs project to the general public.

"This project is of such a nature that we think it's going to be of pretty keen interest to our community.. . . So we're working to try to connect with those potential donors who have a keen interest in environmental preservation and environmental education," Ferry said.

Concordia also is seeking federal aid from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the bluffs work, but Ferry said the majority of funds likely will have to come through private donors.

Dan Benson of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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