Next at the marsh

Friends hope to break ground on multi-purpose educational building at Sheboygan Marsh next spring
by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

THIS ARTIST’S RENDITION (above) shows what the education/multi-purpose building proposed for the Broughton Sheboygan County Marsh Park would look like. — Submitted photo THIS ARTIST’S RENDITION (above) shows what the education/multi-purpose building proposed for the Broughton Sheboygan County Marsh Park would look like. — Submitted photo With their first contribution to the Broughton Sheboygan County Marsh Park still soaring triumphantly above the park, the Friends of the Marsh would like to get down to earth for their next effort.

The group is hoping to break ground next spring on a $2.3 million, 4,000 square-foot environmentally friendly multi-purpose educational and meeting facility at the marsh.

The Friends group led the effort to construct the 80-foot wooden observation tower at the marsh. The tower, the tallest wooden observation tower in the state, opened in late 2009 and provides spectacular views of the largest restored wetland in the Lake Michigan/Lake Superior watershed.

“We’ve been doing a silent fundraising campaign for the last three or four years and have managed to get about 60 percent of what we need,” to build the facility, Friends of the Marsh President Lil Pipping told The Review.

“We would like to break ground early in 2019. It’s cheaper to build in spring than it is in winter, so hopefully we’ll have what we need by then,” Pipping said.

What they need, she added, is $2.1 million in funds and commitments to cover the cost of construction. The goal is also to raise another $100,000 for programming once the building is open and $100,000 for an endowment to support the building.

Although the primary purpose is to facilitate teaching at the one-of-a-kind marsh, “The building will be able to be used for more than just educational purposes,” Pipping emphasized.

One wing of the V-shaped building will house office space and bathrooms for the educational facility, along with separate, dedicated bathrooms and shower space for the campground that the building will sit in the middle of.

Sheboygan County will be covering the $350,000 cost of the bathroom/shower facilities for the campground, according to Pipping.

The main feature of the building will be the multi-purpose space in the other wing. That space will have a flexible configuration that can be used for classes, parties, business meetings and more, with kitchen space available.

The two wings will be connected by an atrium that will feature a “Tree of Learning.”

“A live tree from the marsh will be harvested and placed in the atrium,” Pipping said.

Dried and preserved, the tree will extend its branches all the way to the ceiling, holding up the framework.

That commitment to honoring nature carries throughout the building, which will have a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation, thanks to support and guidance from Kohler Co. LEED experts.

The atrium will also include interpretive displays and kiosks about the ecology, history, management, wildlife and recreational use of the marsh.

There will also be an educational garden outside the building to help students learn about pollinators, butterflies and such, Pipping noted.

Camp Y-Koda will be the main user of the multi-purpose facility, which will become the classroom for the many educational programs the camp provides for local schools and students. Those classes are currently held in a trailer parked at the marsh which is small and inadequate for the service.

“They reach thousands of kids during the year,” Pipping said of the Y-Koda educational efforts, covering Sheboygan County and reaching from Manitowoc to Kiel and Fond du Lac.

“The big thing is education,” Pipping continued.

“We need to get kids outdoors. Kids really don’t know what’s out there. This building will hopefully answer some of those questions, for kids as well as for adults.

“With the environmental education wing, Y-Koda will be able to offer more classes and classes can be offered evenings and weekend. There will be opportunities for other schools to do programs out there as well,” Pipping stated.

The Friends group has already gotten support for the building from several major contributors, Pipping said.

For the final fundraising push, the group will be contacting local businesses and supporters of the tower project, as well as seeking donations from the general public.

Donations of $500 or more will be acknowledged in a prominent display at the building, with designations ranging from leaves (donations of $500 to $999) all the way up – or down – to root (donations of $25,000 and more).

“We have our contractor,” Pipping said, referring to Jos. Schmitt and Sons Construction of Sheboygan, the firm that built the tower. “We’re just waiting on collecting all our funds.”

More information is available from and donations may be made to Friends of the Sheboygan Marsh, P.O. Box 301, Elkhart Lake 53020, (920) 876-4312 or online at

“I think this building is going to be a real asset for Sheboygan County. It will have a lot to offer,” Pipping concluded.

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