Photo: Mike Grota
The Crossroads at Big Creek preserve may expand all the way to the Bay of Sturgeon Bay by the end of the year…. IF…..we can raise the money to purchase the 9-acre Big Creek Cove Property just across Utah Street from our current holdings.
With the acquisition of the Ida Bay Preserve (thanks to The Nature Conservancy), Crossroads now owns representative examples of most Door County habitats….except shoreline and a true riparian wetland. That such a property should come onto the market right across Utah Street from the Crossroads preserve, adjacent to Big Creek, and across from the newly renovated Hanson House seems almost a miracle.
The property (now marked with For Sale signs) begins just east of the little bridge over Big Creek and stretches to South 20th Place. The actual water edge of Big Creek belongs to the DNR, but the surrounding wetland area will offer countless opportunities for interpretation and we will give our visitors (human and wildlife) shoreline access at the opening of The Cove.
Earlier this month, Crossroads hosted a Wetland Seminar for Private Land Owners which was organized by The Door County Land Trust. Representatives and researchers from The Wisconsin Wetland Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the NE WI Farm Bill, The Ridges, and land owners gave presentations stressing the value of wetlands to the environment.
Wetlands provide breeding, resting and wintering habitat to range of wildlife species. Native grasses provide the grain and aquatic plants have nutritious roots that support many migratory and resident birds.
During spring and fall migration, the Big Creek Cove offers some of the best bird watching in Door County. During fish runs in spring, Big Creek becomes the spawning area Northern Pike and later, is filled with a frenzy of White and Longnose Suckers. And thanks to the heavy rains this fall, we actually seen salmon coming up the creek.
This past summer, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison set up nets at Crossroads and identified fry of a number of smaller fish species which visit Big Creek for spawning.
Mink, otter, fox, and of course, whitetail deer use this property for cover and as a corridor between the bay and the protected areas of the Crossroads preserve.
The wetland is critical breeding and rearing habitats for shorebirds, warblers, ducks and geese. (We know. We know. The geese don’t much need our help, but the other bird species are experiencing serious population declines.)
Wetlands are essential to the amphibians, insects and crustaceans that form the food web which supports Great Lakes fisheries, so in a very real way, the Big Creek Cove wetlands contribute to both the fishing industry and Door County tourism.
Besides providing habitat, the wetlands protect the water quality of Sturgeon Bay. During extreme weather events (which seem to be more and more frequent) and during snowmelt flooding, wetland vegetation acts as a giant strainer to catch trees and other debris before they reach the bay and lake.
The wetland floodplain can absorb an enormous volume of excess water, preventing flooding upstream. Emergent aquatic plants also absorb the fertilizers, salts, and heavy metals frequently found in runoff, especially in populated areas such as Sturgeon Bay. The more nutrients absorbed by a wetland, the fewer annoying and costly weeds and algal mats grow in the Bay and Lake Michigan.
Wetlands are extremely resilient, but should this property be developed—we are told it has six buildable sites–the added fill, construction-related soil disruptions with consequent erosion, and the unavoidable nutrient release during the establishment of lawns and gardens could overload the wetland and overwhelm and despoil Big Creek, which in turn would exacerbate the degradation of the Bay.
During the past two months, we have conducted a silent campaign to gauge the feasibility of both raising money for the purchase of the land and establishing a fund to ensure we will be able to protect and appropriately manage the land into the future. We already have raised more than a quarter of the $177,500 purchase price and have several generous pledges.
With this encouragement, we now are coming to the community requesting help. If you would like to help save this remarkable piece of wetland/shoreline, please make a designated gift to Crossroads, Big Creek Cove project, go to the DONATE section on this website.