History of the Cook-Albert Fuller Center Campaign
This campaign represented the largest fundraising effort in the history of The Ridges. Its completion came just six months after we publicly announced the campaign and our $1 million lead gift from lifetime member, the late Chester Cook.
That September, the announcement of an anonymous $350,000 matching gift resulted in a flood of donations and pledges that pushed us over our goal. The campaign’s primary purpose was to support the construction of a new visitor center in a prominent location on Hwy 57 in Baileys Harbor. In addition to providing a visible entrance to the Sanctuary, the facility will also serve as a focal point for environmental education on Door County’s unique natural heritage. Funds were also allocated to various site improvements including the restoration of the ridges and swales directly adjacent to the building site, the development of the Hidden Brook Boardwalk, Family Discovery Trail and general long-term sustainability of the organization. The facility will be the first LEED-certified commercial building in Door County. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.
The Cook-Albert Fuller Center is the foundation of our vision for the future of The Ridges, and with your continued support we will work to build on that foundation. As we move forward, our goal is to ensure that the organization is sustainable for generations to come.
A Vision for The Future
Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the dark days leading to World War II, renowned botanist Albert Fuller advocated for the preservation of the original 40-acre parcel. He, along with Jens Jensen, Emma Toft, Olivia Traven and others became pioneers of the conservation movement in Wisconsin and the Sanctuary became their lasting legacy to Door County, to the state and beyond.
Today the peace and solitude of this beautiful place belie the Sanctuary’s tumultuous beginnings. The Ridges now encompasses 1600 acres – 40 times the size of the original area. And, like the preserve itself, the educational programs, outreach and research efforts have continued to expand.
The approach of our 75th anniversary provided The Ridges with a redefining moment and an opportunity to refocus on its founders’ vision. Our 2008-2012 Strategic Plan, Pathway for Success, was adopted by the Board of Directors in 2007 and identifies the steps needed to extend The Ridges reach to new visitors, to expand its educational programming, to provide handicapped access, to tell the Sanctuary’s story through interpretation and to be a positive economic force in the community.
In October of 2011, following a successful fundraising effort, The Ridges purchased the Sandpiper restaurant property in the heart of Baileys Harbor as the site for the Cook-Albert Fuller Center. While the current strategic plan culminates with the construction of the Center, the process to reach that goal has been equally, if not more, important. At every step along the way, Ridges staff has worked in concert with the various audiences who will be impacted by the development of the Center – sharing information with and soliciting feedback from our membership, the citizenry and governmental bodies of Baileys Harbor, partners in the land trust community and the Door County community at large to achieve consensus. Subsequently, The Boldt Company, one of the largest professional construction service companies in the country, worked with us to develop the building design and provided construction management for the project. The Cook-Albert Fuller Center will provide us with a unique opportunity to sustain our founders’ commitment to conservation for generations to come.
Located on the Door County Coastal Byway at the corner of Hwy 57 and Ridges Road, the Center provides a visible public entrance, a focal point for the various areas of our learning campus and a portal to the other natural areas in the county. Through interpretive signage and exhibits developed by Schmeeckle Reserve Interpreters, UW-Stevens Point, it will help us tell our story. It gives us much-needed space to expand in the areas of education and outreach. Most importantly, as our founders envisioned, it will be a place for people of all ages – volunteers, members, residents, businesses, visitors and community leaders alike – to gather in support of land protection, education, outreach and research.
We are convinced that this project will serve our members, our visitors and our community well for the next 100 years. And we are equally convinced that those who come after us will look back with thanks and find inspiration for the future in the action that we take today.