Kohler Golf Course (with land taken from Kohler-Andrae State Park)

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The Kohler Golf Course is a proposed golf course that would use land from the Kohler-Andrae State Park and other areas. The golf course has been projected, by the Kohler Company, to create around 227 full-time positions and generate $21 million annually for Sheboygan County.[1] The project has received huge criticism by various local groups and environmentalists for the possible environmental impacts of the golf course and the legality of how some of the land was acquired.


Kohler-Andrae State Park

Kohler-Andrae State Park is located outside of the Town of Wilson, within Sheboygan County. It is the combination of two state parks, Terry Andrae and John Michael Kohler State Parks. The parks offer various recreational activities, such as camping, hiking, and water based activities. The parks are located along the Lake Michigan Shoreline and include forested areas, sand dunes, wetland areas, coastline, and the Black River.[2]

Pre-Columbian History

Native American nations have resided in the area now known as the Kohler-Andrae State park since at least 9500 years ago, with evidence of agriculture starting around 1500 B.C. Recent tribes include the Ojibwe, Menomonie, Potowatomi, Ho-Chunk, Odawa and Sauk. These tribes ceded their land in treaties with the US government in 1833. Native people officially left the land then, though continued to live in or near the area until 1877. This native presence has lead to multiple discoveries of artifacts left by these native peoples as well as Effigy Mounds, human burial mounds in the shape of various figures such as animals.

Recent History

Kohler-Andrae State Park is made up of two state parks that are managed as a single entity. Those two parks are the Terry Andrae State Park and the John Michael Kohler State Park. Terry Andrae State Park oringinated as land bought by Frank Theodore "Terry" Andrae, the president of Julius Andrae and Sons' Electric Supply Company in Milwaukee. 122 acres of land was donated from the Andrae family in 1927 to the State of Wisconsin. John Michael Kohler State Park was donated by the Kohler Company, a prominent plumbing business in Sheboygan County and second largest plumbing business in the United States. The park is 280 acres. The State of Wisconsin has since purchased 600 acres of land, bringing the park land up to 1000 acres.

Environmental Features

The park includes areas of forest, rare wetlands, sand dunes, endangered plant species, beaches, and Lake Michigan.[3] Mammals, such as white-tailed deer, red fox, and muskrats reside within the park, as well as over 150 species of birds, 400 different plant species (50 of those being trees), and other wildlife.[4] The park also includes 5 acres of the Great Lakes Ridge and Swale wetlands.[5]


Proposed Golf Course

In 2017, a golf-course in the Kohler-Andrae State Park region was proposed by Herbert V. Kohler, head of the Kohler company. The proposal was met with criticism and praise by the public. Criticisms are on the process that the proposal came about and the land that would be used for the project.

Location

The proposed location of the golf course is on 4.95 acres of public Kohler-Andrae land that would be exchanged with the Wisconsin DNR for 9.5 acres of private land that the Kohler Co. owns on the edge of the John-Michael Kohler State Park. In addition to the exchange, the Wisconsin DNR would allow for a 1.83 acre easement of land in order for a road to the course and related facilities to be built.[6] The Kohler Co. would also use land that the City of Sheboygan has annexed from the Town of Wilson.

Economic Benefits

A private economic consulting firm, SB Friedman Development Advisors, was hired by the Kohler Co. to analyze the economic benefits that the proposed golf course would bring. The analysis conducted found that when fully operational, the proposed golf course is projected to create the equivalent of 227 full-time, permanent jobs and generate nearly $21 million in annual economic activity for Sheboygan County households and businesses, and that the direct annual positive economic impact in the City of Sheboygan is projected to be $9.8 million. The building of the course would bring in an additional 95 full-time jobs and generate $12.5 million annually over the three-year duration of the project for Sheboygan County. In the City of Sheboygan, construction would create the equivalent of 68 full-time jobs, with a $9.2 million annual positive economic impact. [7] This is assuming that the patrons of the golf course would frequent commercial establishments throughout the City of Sheboygan and Sheboygan County.


Controversy

The controversy over the proposed golf course stems from environmental protections and the legality of some of the land acquisitions that have resulted from the deal. Around 1.5 acres of the land that has been proposed for the course contains interdunal and ridge-swale wetlands. According to the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, there are just 10 such sites, all of them small, which contain both interdunal and ridge-swale wetlands in Wisconsin. Kohler-Andrae State Park contains 5 acres of this type of wetland and the 1.5 acres being set aside for the construction of the course would be filled in.[8] Environmental groups have criticized the project for this. Former employees of the Wisconsin DNR have also raised concerns that the DNR was pressured to approve the project. There are questions as well on the legality of the annexation of Town of Wilson land by the City of Sheboygan, with concerns that the Kohler Co. had pressured the City of Sheboygan to annex the land and approve of the golf course proposal.

Friends of Black River Forest

Friends of Black River Forest is an environmental activist group that opposes the Kohler golf course. They have done this through use of social media campaigns, calling for public forums, and suing both the Kohler Co. and the Wisconsin DNR. There are three active lawsuits made by the FBRF as of December 11, 2018.[9] Another lawsuit was filed by the Town of Wilson against the City of Sheboygan over the annexed land, though was dismissed by the Sheboygan County Circuit Court on November 6, 2018.[10]

Environmental Impact

There are many possible environmental impacts that the Kohler golf course could create. Pesticide and fertilizer runoff could get into the Black River and Lake Michigan, polluting the water source for many communities that depend on them. Decreases in the wetlands could cause more intense flooding to occur as these wetlands help contain excess water. Other environmental impacts include increased pollution, deforestation, and the extinction of rare species.


References

  1. Accessed December 11, 2018, http://www.proposedgolfcourse.com/economic-impact-report/ Proposed Golf Course: Economic Impact Report
  2. Accessed December 11, 2018, https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/kohlerandrae/history.html. Kohler-Andrae State Park History
  3. Accessed December 11, 2018, https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/kohlerandrae/history.html Kohler-Andrae State Park History
  4. {Accessed December 11, 2018, https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/kohlerandrae/nature.html, Kohler-Andrae State Park Nature.
  5. [Accessed December 11, 2018, https://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2018/11/former-dnr-employee-staff-pressured-to-ok-kohler-golf-course-on-rare-wisconsin-wetlands-and-state-park/?utm_source=WisconsinWatch+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a980ed4b70-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_11_09_07_40&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d7ab6931a6-a980ed4b70-108179725&mc_cid=a980ed4b70&mc_eid=9c35a44b7d]] Former DNR employee: Staff pressured to OK Kohler golf course on rare Wisconsin wetlands and state park.
  6. Marina Affo, "Environmental group takes DNR to court again over proposed Kohler golf course", Accessed on December 11, 2018, https://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/2018/04/10/environmental-group-takes-dnr-court-again-over-proposed-kohler-golf-course/498767002/
  7. "ECONOMIC IMPACT REPORT: ECONOMIC BENEFITS FROM THE COURSE", Kohler, Accessed December 11, 2018, http://www.proposedgolfcourse.com/economic-impact-report/
  8. Sarah Whites-Koditschek,"Former DNR employee: Staff pressured to OK Kohler golf course on rare Wisconsin wetlands and state park" Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Accessed December 11, 2018,https://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2018/11/former-dnr-employee-staff-pressured-to-ok-kohler-golf-course-on-rare-wisconsin-wetlands-and-state-park/?utm_source=WisconsinWatch+Newsletter&utm_campaign=a980ed4b70-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_11_09_07_40&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d7ab6931a6-a980ed4b70-108179725&mc_cid=a980ed4b70&mc_eid=9c35a44b7d
  9. Marina Affo, "Environmental group take DNR to court again over proposed Kohler golf course", Accessed December 11, 2018, https://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/2018/04/10/environmental-group-takes-dnr-court-again-over-proposed-kohler-golf-course/498767002/
  10. Marina Affo, "Kohler golf course: Town of Wilson lawsuit against City of Sheboygan dismissed", Accessed December 11, 2018, https://www.sheboyganpress.com/story/news/2018/11/06/kohler-golf-course-town-wilson-lawsuit-against-sheboygan-dismissed-court-wisconsin/1903133002/


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