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