County Board gave TeStroete fitting honor

IT WAS A FITTING tribute the Sheboygan County Board of Supervisors gave their outgoing chairman, Roger TeStroete.

The veteran supervisor was wrapping up his two terms as chair – two terms being the limit in office for the County Board chair – at the April 12 board meeting.

County Administrator Adam Payne and the board’s Executive Committee presented TeStroete with a plaque and a photo album commemorating the county’s purchase of the Amsterdam Dunes property in the town of Holland.

The purchase was negotiated and completed during TeStroete’s term as board chair, but more importantly it was undertaken and completed thanks in large part to TeStroete’s vision, guidance and leadership.

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 – preserves 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.

If the preservation of a rare, one-of-a-kind Lake Michigan dune ecosystem were the sole benefit of the $4.2 million deal, it would be worth that alone.

The Amsterdam Dunes features the preserved shoreline remnant of the 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 maplebeech forest, migratory bird and shoreline habitat and much more.

That alone would make the purchase a worthwhile accomplishment, but the county and its residents will gain added economic and financial benefits as well.

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 – or to sell to other counties or municipalities – to offset wetlands lost to development.

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

As if all that wasn’t enough, the purchase of the dunes will be financed in the end without the use of county taxpayer dollars. While county reserves were utilized to pay for the property up front, most of that has already been reimbursed through private funding and state and federal grants. Future revenue from other grants, the sale of small developable parcels on the property and other sources will not only completely cover the cost of the purchase but will also provide funds to help ensure the future maintenance and upkeep of the nature preserve.

As TeStroete told his fellow board members, much of his motivation for pursuing the project was his memories of walking the dunes area growing up in the town of Holland, as well as memories of his family helping to manage some of the farm land included in the property.

County residents now and for generations to come will be able to thank Roger TeStroete and his desire to preserve not only his memories but also a natural jewel in our midst whenever they enjoy the county-owned Amsterdam Dunes preservation area.

It’s a great legacy to leave.

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