The Ridges Sanctuary

Preservation, Education, and Research

The Ridges Sanctuary Adopts Master Plan

Posted on Aug 31, 2023 by Jackie Rath   No Comments Yet | Posted in Articles · In the News

Published by Door County Pulse, August 30th, 2023

In 1934, as a bulldozer stood ready to tear up 40 acres of boreal forest in Baileys Harbor, it was met by fierce opponents.

“If you go any further, you will have to scoop us up, too!” said Emma Toft, who, along with local builder Frank Oldenberg and a delegation of concerned Baileys Harbor citizens, halted plans for a campground on that fateful day. Today, the special habitat that Toft and many others had the foresight to save has grown to more than 1,600 protected acres – and there are big plans for its future.

With the recent announcement of the adoption of a master plan by its board of directors, The Ridges Sanctuary is forming a road map for sustainable and strategic growth for the next 20 years. The plan comes at a time when The Ridges’ current facilities are constraining its capacity to meet the demand for programming, research and administrative support.

New opportunities to serve the community and expand The Ridges’ role as a leader in conservation opened with the recent purchase of the Ridges Inn and Suites, a parcel located adjacent to Ridges property. At its core, the master plan seeks to preserve and protect The Ridges, while allowing for changes to buildings and programs to continue delivering on its mission of education, preservation and research.

“The Ridges has incredible biodiversity in its flora and fauna,” said Jeff Lutsey, board president of The Ridges. “There’s no other place like it – in Door County or the world. Now that we’ve adopted this smart and holistic plan, we’re forming a committee of community professionals to help us decisively move forward.”

A rendering of the plan for the new research campus, with stations that house institutional research and citizen science through the adaptive reuse of the former Ridges Inn, as well as an administration building to gather staff in a collaborative space. The renovated main lodge will allow for research-in-residence programs with on-site lodging for regional partners and institutions.

Led by SmithGroup and PROS Consulting, a 12-month planning process has been completed, informed by input from Ridges members, board and staff members, donors, volunteers and neighbors. Key elements of the plan include:

• Envisioning The Ridges campus of tomorrow with three distinct, yet connected areas: a reconfiguration of the Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center to create a larger gathering space, a research campus and administration building through the adaptive reuse of the former Ridges Inn and Suites, and an education campus at the site of existing cabins to meet the demand for educational programming for all ages.

• Maximizing current investments by providing educational and support amenities to outlying properties, including a new visitor-contact station at Logan Creek and improvements to Appel’s Bluff trails, as well as boardwalk replacement and rustic trail upgrades at the sanctuary.

• Sustainably managing the organization with plans for land management, climate resiliency, staffing and governance, and business and operations, allowing The Ridges to amplify its impact, add volunteers, increase membership and strengthen its relevance within the region and beyond. Learn more about the master-plan initiatives at

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