Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary

From Encyclopedia of Wisconsin Environmental History
Jump to: navigation, search

The Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is a 700-acre wildlife refuge located in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It features many different displays such as live animal exhibits, educational displays, many miles of skiing and hiking trails, and various places to view wildlife. It also is the largest park in the Green Bay Park system and home to the second largest wildlife rehabilitation system in Wisconsin.


In 1929, Green Bay purchased 250 acres of land close to the Bay Beach Amusement Park, planning to turn it into a golf course. In 1935, however, the Concerned citizen group led by Chester Cole and Lyle Kingston had other intentions. They developed an idea of a wildlife refuge with direction from Aldo Leopold. Between the years of 1936-37, the City Park Board granted 5 acres to them to use for waterfowl, and the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary was formed. After it was formed, they offered 50 cents memberships to raise funds for the new park. From 1938-41, heavy equipment was donated, 100 men worked for two years digging ponds and creating the present day lagoon system of 55 acres. They also worked on landscaping and planted shrubs and trees. Also in 1938, the first 6 geese were donated and in 1941 the first goslings hatched. The winter of 1956, over 3,000 geese and ducks winter at the Wildlife Sanctuary. In 1968, the first ever banding of geese started, which is still happening today. The city hires the first ever college trained professional to work at the sanctuary in 1970, to run as the manager. In 1978, by the help of the Marine Corps Reserve, the Wildlife Sanctuary was able to double the size of the observation building. The Sanctuary doubled its acreage in 1980, by purchasing some land and using land that was donated east of Danz Avenue. After the the sanctuary had more land, a grant funds the "Web of Life" trail and waterfall in 1982. Excitingly, in 1985, the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary opens its Nature Education Center, the largest of its kind, funded entirely by "the Friends" amounting in more than 1.7 million dollars. Throughout the years of 1986-89, the sanctuary constructed the exhibits of the bald eagle, red tail hawk, vulture, coyote, and waterfowl. In 1995, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary celebrated its 60th anniversary of growth and progressive Environmental Education development. [1] In the years of 2001 to 2010, the Wildlife Sanctuary has added many things such as; their very own website, a log home, burrow and hawk exhibits, and even a waterfall. The latest thing to happen at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary was in 2011 when the sanctuary celebrated its 75th anniversary "soaring forward with the Wildlife Sanctuary". [2]


When first established in 1936, the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary was used as a site to rehabilitate waterfowl. In 1985, the Sanctuary opened the largest center of it kind, the Nature Education Center. [3] They also offered exhibits of many animals such as; the Bald Eagle, red tail hawk, river otter, coyote, and even a deer habitat. They also had many interactive stations, a raptor theatre, and many other opportunities for visitors who come see the Wildlife Sanctuary which can still be seen today. Over time, the Sanctuary has grown to offer the environmental education to over 10,000 students. Today the Wildlife Sanctuary offers programs to the public as well has everything else it has to offer. For preschoolers they have Animals Stories, this program introduces them to wildlife. They also offer Trail Fitness walks, Spring and Fall bird walks, snowshoe hiking, day and night cross country skiing events, as well as many different workshops.


Funding of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is done entirely by grants, donations, and a group formed through the sanctuary called, "the Friends". In 1936-37, when the Wildlife Sanctuary first open, they offered 50 cent memberships to raise funds. In 1956, support funds were raising by selling corn (10 cents a bag) and by selling concessions. [4] In 1971, the redoing of the Feeding Lagoon is funded by college students button sales. In 1978, the Observation building doubled its size with the help of funding by the Marine Corps reserve. 1994, "the Friends" funded the construction of Woodland Building (6,000 sq. ft.), for native Wisconsin woodland animals, with a 1 acre wolf habitat. [5] Also in 1994, the Wildlife Sanctuary received a grant for $165,159 to go towards a program called "Communities and Connection in the world of Nature". [6] Because of the funding that the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary did, and still does today is the reason the Wildlife Sanctuary still has free admission to the public.

Funding Today

There are many different ways you can support the Wildlife Sanctuary today. On the website of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, under the "Support WLS" tab it lists many options of how you can help them out. One first option is, by just donating money using your credit card or writing a check to "The Friends of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary". You can Also donate to "Join the Pack". Donating to "Join the Pack" supports the Woodland Building, an educational exhibit featuring Native Wisconsin Wildlife. [7] Another option is donating to "Soar with Eagles". This donation will help support the Observation Rehabilitation building. There is also an option of donating and becoming a Wildlife Champion by adopting the animal of your choice. Becoming a member of "the Friends of the Wildlife Sanctuary", by doing this not only do you become a member, you also become a friend. Another funding opportunity the Wildlife Sanctuary has to offer is bird seed sales. The group, "Friends of the Wildlife Sanctuary" sponsors birdseed sales several times a year. [8] R-PAWS is another opportunity where volunteer members nurture injured and orphaned wildlife and releases them back into their wild habitat. The final opportunity to donate to the Wildlife Sanctuary is the Commemorative Brick Program. This program allows people to purchase a personalized commemorative brick, which will become part of the walking paths that wind through the Wildlife Sanctuary. [9] See also Baird Creek Watershed and Sustainability.

Beach Restoration

History of the Beach

In the 1980s, the area that is now called Bay Beach was a very popular swimming attraction. In 1920, the first purchase was made and the property officially became a part of Green Bay in 1929. This spot still remained one of the favorite swimming spots, trolleys ran from down town to the beach for the convenience of the Green Bay citizens. In 1930, a bathhouse was built, and people could even rent a swim suit if they had made a spontaneous decision to go for a quick dip. In 1933 however, this swimming spot was discontinued and warning signs were posted due to the poor quality of water, but swimming continued off and on until 1938. [10] Today, the area is overgrown with grass and has very little sand leftover that is unusable beach sand. But, that is to be changed with the recent plans to restore the beach and draw in more people.

Today's Progress

At the end of March 2018, Mayor Jim Schmitt announced that the city of Green Bay now has permits to restore a sand beach that is 2.9 acres and covers 1,000 feet of shoreline, a 450-foot fishing pier, a boardwalk, and a bathhouse. [11] This large project is expected to cost seven million dollars; so far, the city council has approved a five million-dollar bonding with a vote of 11 to 1. To pay for the extra two-million dollars, the plan is to raise it through donations. [12] This is a lot of money to borrow, but Bay Beach won’t need taxpayers help; Bay Beach is able to afford this project with the money they get from selling tickets for rides and concessions, so, little opposition from the citizens of Green Bay is likely to occur.

This could be underway in the fall of 2019 in hopes that the beach will be open for swimming in the summer of 2019. Bay Beach has already hired Patrick Engineering as a consultant to design the beach, boardwalk, and bathhouse. [13] This seems fast past and a hasty timeline, but the plan has been in the making since 2012 when they started testing the quality of the water. Even before plans were being made for the beach restoration, about 10 years ago, the conjoined fox river had been being dredged to remove chemically-contaminated sediment. Environmental planners have recorded no issues with PCBs, E. coli, mercury or algae. Although it is safe now, the quality of water will still be tested daily once the beach is open and in use to ensure the safety of all the users. Also, E. coli episodes sometimes close other beaches in Wisconsin, so it is vital to test frequently. To stay within the permits limitations given to Bay Beach, the project needs to be started within the next two years. [14]


  1. "History of Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary" Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, accessed on November 23 2015
  2. "History of Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary" Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, accessed on November 23 2015
  3. "Public Programs" Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, accessed on December 7 2015
  4. "History of Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary" Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, accessed on November 23 2015
  5. "History of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary" Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, accessed on November 23 2015
  6. "History of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary" Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, accessed on November 23 2015
  7. "Support WLS" Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, accessed on December 1 2015
  8. "Support WLS" Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, accessed on December 1 2015
  9. "Support WLS" accessed on December 1 2015
  10. "History of Green Bay's Parks." Green Bay Parks. Accessed April 26, 2018.
  11. Srubas, Paul. "Green Bay Gets Approval to Restore Bay Beach for Swimming." Press Gazette Media. March 30, 2018. Accessed April 26, 2018.
  12. Srubas, Paul. "Green Bay Gets Approval to Restore Bay Beach for Swimming." Press Gazette Media. March 30, 2018. Accessed April 26, 2018.
  13. Wbay. "Green Bay City Council Approves Funds for Sand, Pier at Bay Beach." Content. Accessed April 26, 2018.
  14. Srubas, Paul. "Green Bay Gets Approval to Restore Bay Beach for Swimming." Press Gazette Media. March 30, 2018. Accessed April 26, 2018.

Additional Published Resources

Article History

Format: [[username1]] (YY-MM-DD); [[username2]] (YY-MM-DD); [[username3]] (YY-MM-DD)