Amsterdam Dunes a great deal worth the wait

WHEN SHEBOYGAN COUNTY COMPLETES its purchase of the Amsterdam Dunes property in the town of Holland, among many other things it will stand as testimony to the truth of that old adage that anything worthwhile is worth waiting for.

The 333-acre parcel of undeveloped land with 1,900 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline – one of the last remaining undeveloped beaches between Chicago and Sheboygan – has the potential to preserve a unique ecosystem in the southeastern corner of the county similar to what the Broughton Sheboygan County Marsh Park has done in the northwest corner of the county.

The county has eyed the undeveloped land for more than half a decade. In 2009, it included $9 million in its long-range capital projects budget to purchase the property from its owner, development company American Heritage Corp.

That deal never happened, but American Heritage was never able to bring its development plans – which could have included up to 15 residential lots along the pristine beach – to reality either. The company came back to the county with an offer to sell last year, which is when County Administrator Adam Payne, County Board Chairman Roger TeStroete and county Planning Director Aaron Brault went into intense and lengthy negotiations to buy the land.

The result is a pending deal that would have the county buy the property, appraised at $5.75 million, for $4.2 million. County officials are confident that third-party funding – from state and federal grants as well as corporate and individual parties – will be found to offset most if not all of the purchase cost.

If the preservation of a rare and unique Lake Michigan dune ecosystem were the sole benefit of this purchase it would be worth that alone.

The Amsterdam Dunes features the preserved shoreline remnant of

At issue:
Purchase of Amsterdam Dunes
Bottom line:
Great deal for many reasons

6,000-year-old Lake Nipissing. The only other such glacial remnant in the state is in Kohler- Andrae State Park; the rest have been mined for sand or lost to development.

It contains rare sand dune habitat, inter-dunal wetlands, native maple-beech forest, migratory bird and shoreline habitat and much more.

But there will be an added financial and economic benefit to the county and its residents from the purchase.

The county will be able to restore the original wetlands on the property and bank that acreage to use as a wetland mitigation bank for future development elsewhere in the county.

Current rules require that any development - be it for roads, industry, commerce or residential development – that includes draining an existing wetland must be offset by re-creation of wetland elsewhere, at least on an acre-per-acre basis or up to 1.5 new acres of wetland for each acre filled in.

The county can utilize the 66 to 78 acres of identified restorable wetland at Amsterdam Dunes as a wetland restoration reserve, to be used to offset development locally or to be ‘sold’ to other counties as a credit if they need that.

Amsterdam Dunes would become the only such wetland mitigation bank in eastern Wisconsin. It would mean the county would not be forced to buy credits elsewhere – in the neighborhood of $50,000 an acre – for development projects here and could be a seller instead of a buyer for such credits.

That will make economic development projects in the county easier and more affordable in the future, which benefits all of us, while also preserving a natural jewel right in our midst.

The vision of preserving Amsterdam Dunes dates back more than a half dozen years, but was not doable until now – which only proves again that what’s worthwhile is worth waiting for.

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