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Local Business Owner Becomes Conservation Hero

Over 1,300 abandoned tires at the Point Creek Natural Area (PCNA) in the Wisconsin coastal zone of Lake Michigan are on their way to become playground surfaces and horse arena padding. Instead of suing the owner of the natural area to remove the tires, Glacial Lakes Conservancy worked diligently to find a creative solution to this common and frustrating conservation easement dilemma encountered by many land trusts.

Vickie Hall, executive director of the conservancy, said “The clean-up was a monumental task but we know now that it can be done!”

Tires cleanupThe Point Creek site, located in the Town of Centerville, is a research and educational area with public passive recreation that has been undergoing work to restore it back to a habitat of mixed native species. A neighbor to the preserve had gradually deposited the tires on the property over the years. Manitowoc County, which owns the property, and the conservancy, the easement-holder, were both unsure about the boundary line. The responsible neighbor had died, leaving no legal recourse against him available. Using a blend of perseverance and diplomacy, the conservancy pushed the County to find a way to determine the boundary line; eventually a survey of the area in question was conducted. Unfortunately, once it was established that the County was the responsible landowner, it indicated that it did not have any financial resources to pick up and dispose of the tires except to provide in-kind volunteers for the project

The long search by the conservancy to find a no-cost way to dispose of the tires ended when Richard Larson, owner of Whitewall Tire Co. and GreenSky Energetics in Wisconsin, stepped up to the plate in early October to do a good turn for the community and cover the tire disposal costs. He donated his and his staff’s time to work with other volunteers to load, haul, and then pay for the proper disposal of the estimated 500 tires that lay abandoned for years.

However, Larson’s estimate of 500 tires turned out to be over 1,300 – a significant difference. As Manitowoc County staff and volunteers kept turning up with more and more tires discovered under tall grasses and shrubs or around trees, the project grew in scope from a one day project into two days.  “It was incredible. I did not expect the number of tires we hauled away but I was glad to participate in the project,” said Larson.

“We couldn’t have done the project without Richard Larson’s generous donation,” explained Glacial Lakes’ Executive Director, Vickie Hall, who also serves as chair of the PCNA management committee. “Once we realized that the property’s boundaries included the old tire piles, we knew we had to get rid of them, but without funds, it was nearly impossible.  We also knew that we were obligated to uphold the conservation easement, so the tires had to go.”

The connection to environmental health is clear in Larson’s GreenSky Energetics business, which offers consultation and solar solutions for residential and commercial water and space heating. An example of their solar air heating system has been installed at Woodland Dunes Nature Center in Two Rivers. GreenSky’s future plans include offering PV solar panels and small-scale turbines, along with anaerobic digesters.

“This environmental clean-up at PCNA became so much more expensive than we estimated,” said Hall, who added, “I hope that other local businesses or residents might consider donating some funds to this project area to help cover site restoration costs at whatever they can afford. It will all add up and help.” 

Point Creek Natural Area has an innovative management committee that includes representatives from Manitowoc County, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan, University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc, a local resident, and Glacial Lakes Conservancy, the local land trust that holds a conservation easement agreement on the property.

Contact Vickie Hall at  Glacial Lakes Conservancy at 920-273-1143 or info@glaciallakes.org for more information.

Sunday October 19, 2008  Herald Times Reporter article on the Point Creek Natural Area.

Point Creek Natural Area resulted in 2001 from the Point Creek Watershed Initiative, a project of the Sheboygan Area Land Conservancy’s Fischer Creek Alliance, who worked diligently to fundraise to save this 39-acre shoreline parcel from development and preserve its estuary, wetlands, coastal bluffs, and wildlife habitat. The site is heavily used each year by thousands of migratory waterfowl along the Lake Michigan flyway, including a large annual congregation of Great Blue Herons. The property was purchased for $1.9 million in 2001 with Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds and a Wisconsin Coastal Management Grant, along with generous private foundation and individual donations. The parcel is now owned by Manitowoc County, who donated a Conservation Easement to the Sheboygan Area Land Conservancy, known since 2004 as Glacial Lakes Conservancy.  The PCNA Management Plan and innovative Management Committee form the basis on how PCNA is being protected and restored. The Management Committee includes one voting representative from Manitowoc County, Glacial Lakes Conservancy, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, University of Wisconsin – Manitowoc, University of Wisconsin – Sheboygan , and an area community resident. Since 2003, PCNA has had a reforestation project, bird and plant surveys by graduate students, as well as invasive species treatments and trail building days using volunteer assistance.
 
About Glacial Lakes Conservancy (GLC):
Glacial Lakes Conservancy is a private, non-profit, land trust conservation organization dedicated to preserving and protecting working, urban, and natural lands that contribute significantly to the ecological integrity, agricultural sustainability, scenic beauty and recreational enjoyment of our five-county area. Glacial Lakes envisions a legacy of permanently protected lands and land-use policies that sustain and enhance a regional quality of life defined by the beauty and productivity of its working lands and natural resources and is supported by memberships and contributions from those who share in this vision. The Conservancy achieves its goals at this time primarily through the use of donated conservation easements, advocating for resource protection, and entering into project partnerships. GLC is part of the Lake Michigan Shorelands Alliance, the nine land trusts within the Lake Michigan watershed basin.

Photo courtesy of Glacial Lakes Conservancy

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