Crossroads at Big Creek Facilities

The John & Helen Collins Learning Center

The John & Helen Collins Learning Center provides a dedicated space for the presentation of classes and lectures, lab space for research and investigations, and three exhibit spaces. The space is fully accessible, with handicapped restrooms and an elevator to all levels.

lecture hallThe lecture hall at the Collins Learning Center features:

  • eighty-two seat multimedia theater
  • comfortable seats, fold-down table arms,
  • sound system,
  • a multi-media system which includes a document camera, DVD, video, slides, and computer generated presentations.

lecture hallThroughout the year, lectures on science, history and the environment are offered for the general public. Businesses and organizations can rent the facilities for meetings and seminars. This space can be rented for weddings or memorial services.

The Science Laboratory

kids looking at microscopeThe Science Laboratory provides five lab stations with water, electricity, and computer ports, a teacher demonstration table, a hood, storage areas, with lab and field equipment for students of all ages to examine and test specimens and samples. During the summer, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, in collaboration with the Door County Public Health Department and Door County Soil and Water, use the Crossroads lab to test the water of Door County beaches to study water quality in Lake Michigan and the Bay of Green Bay.

The Hanson Library

The Hanson Library offers a collection of reference books and periodicals permitting individuals to explore ideas, check facts and conduct literature searches. A children’s section is also provided. Books can be checked out.

The Kitchenette

The Kitchenette has stove/oven, microwave, refrigerator, serving island and storage.


great lakes ecosystem exhibitThe Great Lakes Ecosystem Display is located on the entry level of the learning center. Created by muralist Patty Clark, it shows examples of native and non-native species found in Lake Michigan and Green Bay.

The Escarpment Display is located in the hallway on the entry level of the center. This display features the karst systems of the Niagara Escarpment, with spectacular reproductions of several Door County caves.

The Wisconsin Wildlife Exhibit, created by muralist Patty Clark, shows wildlife throughout the day, the seasons, and the various habitats of Door County.

Lower Level Recreation Storage

Recreation equipment, available for schools, youth groups and families, is stored in the lower level of the Collins Learning Center. Winter recreation equipment is loaned out on Sunday afternoons and by reservation.

In the Preserve

Riley Amphitheatre

A memorial to Sandra Stahl Riley, the Outdoor Amphitheatre boasts a stage and seating for about 100. This venue has been used for concerts, sing-alongs, plays, reunions, outdoor worship services, and weddings.

Crossroads does not charge for using the Amphitheatre, but we require that users rent the Collins Learning Center as a backup for inclement weather, for restrooms, and as a staging area.

Astronomy Campus

The Astronomy Campus, located in the southeast corner of Crossroads just off Utah Street, is managed collaboratively by Crossroads, the School District of Sturgeon Bay, and the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society.

The Leif Everson Observatory

Leif Everson ObservatoryThe Leif Everson houses a computer-controlled 14″ Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope on a robotic mount controlled by a computer affectionately know as HAL 9000. and a TeleVue 102mm refractor with a Coronado Hydrogen Alpha filter. The observatory dome is mechanically synchronized to move in coordination with the telescope. A 102 mm refractor with a Hydrogen Alpha filter is mounted on a portable equatorial tripods for outstanding views of solar prominences. The observatory house a weather station. The observatory is owned by the School District of Sturgeon Bay.

The StarGarden

Designed by artist-in-residence Jean Humpke, and built by volunteers from Crossroads, the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society and the Peninsula Art School, The StarGarden is used for night sky viewing. Walkways are made from recycled materials and are lit with red lamps for improved night vision.

The first installation, “The Expanding Universe” includes six parallelogram-type mounts on piers for astronomical binoculars. These assist beginners who can view pre-located and focused celestial objects.

The center area “The Ringed Planet” includes seating areas and a grassy mound for reclined viewing, perfect for meteor showers. Concrete pads enable amateur astronomers to set up small telescopes for outreach activities. Electric outlets are available for those with computer-driven mounts and other devises.

“The Lone Star” image has become has become an unofficial logo of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society. This area enables serious amateurs to set up their equipment and work alone or with a small group.

Human Sundial

For years, the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society (DPAS) dreamed of creating a analemmatic sundial (a sundial on which a human casts the shadow.) A member of the Leadership Door County Class of 2012 called Crossroads explaining that they were looking for a project, something that would have lasting benefits for the community. And by the way, several of them were artists! It seemed a perfect match for the sundial project…a match made in heaven (or at least space.)

The Leadership Door County class and DPAS members using the design by Jim DuFrane, with mathematical assistance Ray Stonecipher, created a beautiful 249 square foot concrete , aluminum and glass installation. Both groups are grateful to the Raibook Foundation for help with this project.

The Ray and Ruthie Stonecipher Astronomy Center

Stonecipher Astronomy CenterFunded and planned by Dr. Ray Stonecipher, the astronomy building is located near the Leif Everson Observatory and StarGarden. It is the meeting space for the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society (DPAS)

No longer confined to “clear sky only” events, members of DPAS can offer indoor programs. The vaulted ceiling of the warm room accommodates the inflatable Starlab Planetarium, recently upgraded to run on Starry Night 2009 software. For school groups, and daytime or cloudy evening visits, planetarium shows provide an inspiring introduction for beginning sky watchers. This area also can be set up for demonstrations, discussions, and presentations.

The warm room can be illuminated with either white or red lights. Participants at dark sky events can move in and out of the red-lit room, use the indoor restroom! or warm up without losing night vision.

Cold areas of the building are designed for storing astronomical equipment so that telescopes and binoculars can be kept near the ambient outdoor temperature, and consequently will be less likely to fog over.

The Ray and Ruthie Stonecipher Astronomy Center is can be reached using the Utah Street Entrance to Crossroads. Ample parking is available. To arrange a visit, call 920-746-5895.

Renewable Energy at Crossroads

Crossroads at Big Creek Goes SolarSolar Array Installed 10-10-10

Since the Collins Learning Center opened its doors, we have offered programs about energy conservation, renewable energy and sustainable practices. We won’t stop talking “green, “ but in 2010, we decided that the time had come to teach by example.

We installed our first solar array. Producing 4100 kWh per year will not save the world. But it is a start toward Crossroads becoming sustainable.

The concrete pole was poured in September so it could cure, but most of the work was done by a 10/10/10 work party as a part of the Global Work Party for Lake Michigan Wind and Sun, Ltd. donated their labor and technical expertise, but they had assistance with trenching from Boy Scout Troop 2041, while members of Sustain Door and Friends of Crossroads assembled the racking and helped mount the solar panels. Cub Scout Pack 2141 later helped by replacing drip line stones after the electrical inspection had been completed.

Not all help was physical. We have had all manner of assistance, including grants, from Sturgeon Bay Utilities and Focus on Energy. We received grants from the Green Fund of the The Door County Community Foundation and the Fred J. Peterson Foundation and generous donations from Sustain Door, the Noon Rotary Club, Door County Environmental Council, Door Property Owners, Lake Forest Park Corporation, Friends of Crossroads, Zion United Methodist Church, Peninsula Planters Garden Club, plus private donations.

A major objective of the project is to confirm to the public that solar energy works in Door County. If it can work in a much cloudier Germany, it can certainly work here. The bright and sunny day the solar panels were aligned to the south, our output was amazing. But even on grey and cloudy days, the panels make some power.

Without adding to our carbon footprint, we are making some of the energy we use here at Crossroads, and thanks to Sturgeon Bay Utilities and Wisconsin Public Power solar energy buy-back, the value of those renewable electrons are tripled.

crossroads-sf-2288-going-up-1-lrAstronomy Campus Powered by Energy from Outer Space

In the spring of 2012, we at Crossroads added our second solar collector. During Earth Week, Lake Michigan Wind and Sun, Ltd. combined forces with the students from the NWTC Solar Technology program and Sturgeon Bay Utilities to install a 21′ diameter collector between the Leif Everson Observatory and Stonecipher Astronomy Center.

This newest member of the Solar Flair TM family was designed by John Hippensteel with the Crossroads Astronomy Campus in mind. The artistic installation is modeled after the Pinwheel Galaxy, otherwise known to astronomers as M101. The Pinwheel Galaxy is a spiral galaxy, the essentially the same shape we believe our own Milky Way Galaxy to.

In September of 2011, the Pinwheel Galaxy was in the news when one of its stars went supernova. Actually, this star self-destructed some 21 million years ago, but it took all of that time for its bright light to reach our Earth. In contrast, it will take 8 minutes and 20 seconds for photons of light to travel from the Sun to the solar panels currently powering Crossroads.

This was a true community project with all material and labor being donated by local residents, companies and organizations. Learners of all ages visit the Astronomy Campus at Crossroads to learn about the wonders of our universe. How appropriate then, that daytime programs will be powered not with fossil fuels, but rather by the clean, renewable energy of our nearest star.

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