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Great Lakes Article:

Door County shoreline parcel to remain public

Natural Resources Board votes to attach 16 acres to state nature preserve

Milwuakee Journal Sentinel staff
Aug. 17, 2002

Manitowoc - A valuable undeveloped strip of Lake Michigan shoreline in Door County will remain in the public's hands, the state Natural Resources Board decided Wednesday.

The 16 acres known as the Spikehorn Campground property has been involved in a tug of war between local property owners, Door County, conservationists and the Department of Natural Resources over whether it should be sold to a private landowner or remain public property.

After listening to comments from several people, the board voted unanimously to hang onto the property and add it to the adjacent Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands State Natural Area.

The board not only decided to retain the parcel near the Cana Island Lighthouse, but it also placed strict restrictions on the property that would bar development, including parking lots or public beaches.

The lighthouse attracts thousands of visitors every year, and landowners in the area and others were worried that the added attraction of Lake Michigan beachfront to the natural area would worsen traffic congestion on the road leading to the lighthouse, which has no parking lot.

Carolyn Van Miller, a member of the Cana Island Property Owners Association, said access to the property should be restricted because the fragile ecosystem could be harmed by public use.

"Public ownership alone will not save Spikehorn," Van Miller said.

However, Door County Board Chairman Charlie Most said the public should have access to the property.

"I'm kind of disturbed when a property owners association is given so much weight," he said.

Most added that state dollars were used to buy the land. "That's public money. There should be limited passage to the property," he said.

The beachfront was part of the privately owned Spikehorn Campground, whose owners sold more than 90 acres to the state in 1998 for $1.1 million. Most of the land became part of the Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands State Natural Area - a site created by the DNR in the mid-1990s because of its abundance of rare plant and animal species.

The area supports one of the few known nesting sites of the common goldeneye, a migratory bird. The coastal waters also are used by a host of other ducks, and the inland forest includes large stands of white cedar, white spruce and balsam fir.

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