Contact: Vicki Elkin, Executive Director, Fund for Lake Michigan
Phone: 414-418-5008; 608-334-1473 (cell)

Judy Drew, Assistant Director, Ridges Sanctuary
Phone: 920-839-2802

Fund for Lake Michigan awards $75,000 to Ridges Sanctuary ‘Living Laboratory’

Visitors to the popular Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor can soon view ways they can improve water quality while attracting more birds and butterflies to their homes and businesses.

Thanks to a $75,000 grant from the Fund for Lake Michigan, the Ridges will showcase rain gardens, native plantings and other stormwater management practices as part of a "Living Laboratory" at its new Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center.

Ridges Director Steve Leonard said the grant will help pay for the demonstration project at the nature center while also educating the public about what they can do to improve Lake Michigan water quality.

"We know that many tourists who come to Door County care deeply about the environment," said Leonard. "This grant will allow us to show them ways to help right in their own backyard."

The grant is one of 27 projects sharing in $1.9 million in support this year from the Fund for Lake Michigan, a Milwaukee-based philanthropic group backed by We Energies and WPPI energy. Established in 2011, the Fund's mission is to safeguard the lake and improve water quality in the region.

"The Ridges project hits two of our goals at once," said Vicki Elkin, executive director of the Fund for Lake Michigan. "It will help control runoff into the lake but will also educate the public about what they can do themselves."

The grant will also help Ridges restore 16 acres surrounding the new center, which includes a two-acre brownfield that has been leaching kerosene from past fish boils into the groundwater and Lake Michigan, explained Leonard.

Founded in 1937, The Ridges protects 1,600 acres of diverse habitat consisting of low-lying wetland areas formed by a series of sand ridges paralleling the lakeshore of Door County. As a designated State Natural Area, a National Park Service Natural Landmark, an Audubon Important Bird Area, and a Wetland of International Importance by the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Ridges receives visitors from around the world and is considered a key attraction in Wisconsin's growing eco-tourism industry.

"There are plenty of great restaurants, shops and galleries in Door County, but Lake Michigan is still the main reason people love the area," Leonard said. "Anything we can do to improve water quality is a bonus."

The Fund for Lake Michigan is a private foundation based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Crafted out of a legal settlement related to construction of the coal-fired power plant in Oak Creek, the Fund receives $4 million annually from the plant owners, including We Energies, WPPI Energy, and Madison Gas and Electric. The Fund has awarded more than $11 million over the past four years for projects ranging from the restoration of Cat Island in Green Bay to the revitalization of Simmons Beach in Kenosha.

See a list of projects we have funded in 2015

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