Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

News Blog

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

Ozaukee Washington Land Trust was founded on two simple notions: there are special places in our community that need to be protected forever and all people should have free and open access to nature.

These simple but powerful ideas shaped our community in transformative ways and have yielded 32 (and counting) nature preserves that we maintain for all of the community to enjoy – 100% free and open to the public.

We will continue to promote a message that nature preserves are free and open to the public because we know that people of color and black Americans, in particular, can be subjected to unwarranted suspicion, confrontation, and violence when in the outdoors.

We believe unequivocally that nature preserves exist for everyone as a place for our community to find renewal and healing, promote physical and mental health, and to celebrate Wisconsin’s most beloved outdoor places. 

We continue to look for ways that our mission of protecting our lands and waters can be an agent for promoting equity and inclusion in our community. Keeping land free and open is our start and we know we don’t have all the answers, but we are listening and actively learning how to do our work better. We will continue in service of this goal because as the old song goes, “This land was made for you and me.” 


See you on the preserves,

Marjie Tomter, Board President

Tom Stolp, Executive Director

The Race is On to Conserve Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs

Over the past two months, life has taken on a new perspective. The line between essentials and luxuries has been clarified. A key essential is the need to seek solace within nature. This has been very evident in the increased usage of OWLT preserves. As Ruthie, who (with her four children) has become a frequent visitor of Bratt Woods, shared in a 'thank you' message:

“The outdoors are more important than ever for our physical and mental health.”

The good work OWLT has accomplished together, for the last 28 years, has resulted in a refuge for many people, throughout the Greater Milwaukee area, during this season of crisis. The thanks go to you, the dedicated supporters, for making this possible. Together you have made an impact for the many people that find a sense of peace on the OWLT preserves. 

Therefore, it is with excitement, that we share this message with you. We wanted you to be among the first to know about Ozaukee Washington Land Trust plans to protect nearly three-quarters of a mile of Lake Michigan shoreline and 131 acres of land as a nature preserve in Port Washington. 

Just days ago, we signed a contract with the owner of this land that gives us the right to acquire the land for permanent protection.

This is a big first step, but this is a marathon, 

and there are many steps to go 

before the finish line.

The terms of our contract means the land trust has set various financial and internal review benchmarks that must be met prior to November 1, 2020 in order for the project to continue and before the full terms and negotiated price will be made public.

This means we need a strong showing of 

financial support over the next several months

in order to make this once-in-a-lifetime 

Lake Michigan project a reality!

To date, the partnership has secured $1 million in funding made up of individual and agency contributions. Sources of additional funding for the project are a pending grant from the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program, as well as several proposals to federal agencies.

But we will need support from you!

OWLT has set a goal to fundraise $2 million in addition to these contributions above and the clock is ticking.

The generosity of our community working with OWLT, to make places like Lion’s Den Gorge, Mequon Nature Preserve, and Forest Beach Migratory Preserve a reality gives us great optimism that we will again be successful in reaching our goal.

Once completed, Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs Nature Preserve will complement the nearby Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve, which regularly hosts 100,000+ annual visitors inspiring Lake Michigan views from the 100 foot high bluffs, critical wildlife and migratory bird habitat areas, and natural areas such as the dramatic cedar-lined gorge descending to the shoreline below will be preserved for future generations to enjoy forever. 

Together, we can win the race to protect

the natural beauty of Lake Michigan's shoreline!

We’re so glad you’re with us for the long haul of this project.

For an Aerial Tour of Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs click here.


There are two actions you can take today to make this dream a reality:

1. Make a special donation to support the purchase of Cedar Gorge Clay Banks Nature Preserve.


2. Share photo and stories that tell how important having protected places like this along Lake Michigan means to you and your family. Send an email to  or post on


OWLT Nature Preserves Update

Preserves Remain Open - Help us keep them that way!

In light of the decision to close Wisconsin State Parks due to overcrowding and vandalism, we wanted to let you know that Ozaukee Washington Land Trust nature preserves remain 100% free and open to the public.

We were all dismayed to learn that a few people making destructive decisions could rob us all of our Wisconsin State Parks. 

However, at a time when our community needs access to nature more than ever, we are hopeful that we can keep our preserves open because we know we can count on YOU.

In fact, one of the first messages we received today was from one of our supporters: 

"After getting the news about the Wisconsin State Parks closing, I would like to offer my services to assist in any cleanup and management work that might need to be done on the land trust properties. Please keep them open. I have a brigade of other families I can mobilize if it’s helpful too!"  - Erin, Mother of Two, Village of Bayside

We know the closure of State Parks will put more demand on our nature preserves. You can help, by reviewing our Preserve Guidelines.

On top of helpful activities like practicing leave no trace and packing out all waste and recyclables, there are additional ways we can all ensure our nature preserves remain free and open during this emergency.

  1. Small Parking Lots & Big Preserves. The small size of our parking areas vs. the large size of our nature preserves will help manage the number of users on a nature preserve at one time. If a parking lot is full, please move on to discover another nearby nature preserve and obey all local parking regulations (i.e. no street parking in certain municipalities).
  2. See Something, Say Something. Our wonderful members and neighbors are our eyes and ears on nature preserves helping us know what's happening on our 2,000+ acres with public access. If you see something that causes concern contact our staff at or call 262-338-1794, or if you suspect illicit behavior contact the appropriate law enforcement.
  3. Stepping up Security. Law enforcement regularly patrol our nature preserves and use the parking areas to patrol traffic and discourage illegal activity. Additionally, we are installing more camouflaged security cameras in known problem areas, and our full-time Stewardship staff continues to monitor and maintain the nature preserves.
  4. Preserves are 100% free & open. We're facing unprecedented demand on our preserves and Ozaukee Washington Land Trust's mission has never been more important. Your donation will help us maintain our more than 30 nature preserves and help us as we work to permanently protect even more of the places that make our corner of Wisconsin special. DONATE

If you have any suggestions for us or questions please contact me at . We hope for your continued health and happiness during these challenging times. Additionally, we hope your household continues to enjoy our nature preserves.


Tom Stolp

Executive Director

Nature Preserves Remain Open!

With the state of Wisconsin's order to close all nonessential businesses, we wanted to reassure you that all 32 of our nature preserves remain free and open to the public. In these uncertain and stressful times, it's nice to know that you can count on the constancy of nature. 

Nature is essential to our well-being, in that it can provide renewal, exercise, and room to breathe. Now, more than ever we need adventures in nature. 

Due to the generous support of the community to protect open spaces these areas are available for us to enjoy and find a sense of peace during this time. Beyond today, these preserves are forever-protected to continue to enrich the lives of future generations. Hence, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust is grateful for all the past support that has made it possible for us to support the community with our mission.

Here are three things you can keep doing to support our community:

  • You can still enjoy our miles of trails stretching from the headwaters of the Milwaukee River, along Cedar and Sauk Creeks, and all the way to Lake Michigan. We all need fresh air and the great outdoors, so enjoy! And remember to smile and wave to your neighbors on the trail. We're all in this together!
  • Plan a special picnic trip for your household to explore a new Ozaukee Washington Land Trust nature preserve and call a local restaurant for curbside pick up. Here are local guides for restaurants in our community that are offering curbside pick up:
  • Post your photos/videos/stories on our public forum at NatureNOWlt.org to share your adventures with the community. Join the community by reacting to other posts on the forum. Remember that not all of our community members have the resources or ability to enjoy nature in the same way. So share the beauties you encounter with those that are sick and fully housebound, those that are craving to see the transition of winter to spring beyond the view of their window.

We wish you happiness, health, and wonderful memories made in nature with your household. Ozaukee Washington Land Trust remains grateful that we are called to do our work in a community with such a generous spirit and a love of all things nature, now and forever.

We hope to see you on the trails!

Finding Comfort as a Community!

Dear Friends,

Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) is committed to the health and safety of our community, our members, volunteers, staff, and board of directors.

For the last 28 years, through amazing acts of volunteerism and generosity, our community has driven the mission of Ozaukee Washington Land Trust to protect the health of the community's water, land, and wildlife. During these challenging times, we take comfort in the knowledge that our community will again rise to the occasion to get through this ordeal; by helping one another and taking protective measures to ensure the health of our community.

In response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, OWLT is instituting the following measures for our staff, nature preserves, and facilities:

Staff & Facilities

  • In the interest of limiting the transmission of the virus, our office at the West Bend Depot is closed to the public.
  • We are directing staff to work remotely or in the field at every opportunity. Our team remains available via email and phone. Staff are directed to refrain from attending in-person events and we are discouraging non-essential travel. 
  • All OWLT workdays and events are postponed until further notice. We are evaluating our future events in 2020 and hope to reschedule.

Nature Preserves

  • Our 32 nature preserves remain free and open to the public. During stressful times as these, and all year round, spending time in nature is a great way for your household to stay healthy and relax.
  • Please adhere to all public health recommendations and avoid nature preserves if you are not feeling healthy, have a fever, cough, or travel history over the last 30 days, so as to not transmit to others.
  • With over 2,000 acres to roam, our preserves are unlikely to be crowded with other visitors, but remember, "winking and waving" is a better alternative to "high-fives and hugs."

Our team will develop longer-term responses as our community continues to learn more and we will keep members updated via email and our website. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at . 


Tom Stolp

Executive Director



Today, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust is launching a new website feature called Nature News Ozaukee Washington or NatureNOW (http://www.NatureNOWlt.org). We created this website as a resource for lovers of nature, wildlife, rivers, lakes, land, outdoor recreation, health, and the community!

With the uncertainty and stress of the coronavirus pandemic, we want to offer our community a platform to come together and celebrate one of the few things that hasn't changed: our ability to enjoy the forever protected outdoor places that make our corner of Wisconsin special.

NatureNOW will feature original content from our staff and volunteers and most excitingly will offer you a forum to share your outdoor recreation tips, get answers to questions, and get inspiration for how to make the most out of your time outdoors.

We hope you enjoy NatureNOW and that you add your great ideas to this forum. 

We wish you happiness, health, and wonderful memories made in nature with your household. Ozaukee Washington Land Trust remains grateful that we are called to do our work in a community with such a generous spirit and a love of all things nature, now and forever.

Image from Forest Beach Migratory Preserve (Port Washington)