Budget committee approves $500K for Potawatomi State Park observation tower

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 12:20 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - A state legislative committee included $500,000 in the next budget bill to preserve the observation tower in Door County’s Potawatomi State Park.

State Sen. Andre Jacque (R-De Pere) and Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) announced the Joint Finance Committee approved the funding in a vote Thursday night. The budget still needs approval from the full Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers, who has line-item veto powers.

Gov. Evers proposed $6 million in his budget plan to restore the observation tower with a handicap-accessible ramp, like the Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park, and improvements, including restrooms and parking, to increase the number of visitors who can access the tower and the adjoining Ice Age Trail.

The observation tower was built in 1931. It was closed after a routine inspection in 2017 raised safety concerns. Engineering experts hired by the state said the structure needed significant repairs to allow more than limited access to the viewing deck.

Rep. Kitchens says a recent study showed the tower is still repairable, and Sen. Jacque said he’s hopeful the historical structure will be preserved.

“The tower carries historic significance as the first purpose-built recreational observational tower constructed in a Wisconsin state park, state forest or state recreational area,” Jacque said.

The tower has been closed since 2018.