Peninsula State Park to get new observation tower with an meandering 850-foot ramp
Not only will visitors to Peninsula State Park be able to view Lake Michigan from the perch of an observation tower again, they’ll be able to climb through forest canopy to reach it.
The park recently received a $750,000 donation and has gained approval to build a new Eagle Tower, which will include an approximately 850-foot ramp snaking through forest to reach the observation platform.
The original 75-foot Eagle Tower was dismantled in 2016 due to its deteriorating condition, leaving visitors to the Door County park without a way to catch glimpses of the surrounding landscape and Lake Michigan’s Green Bay.
But after construction is completed, park-goers will again be able to climb above the tree line to view the area. This time, the sights will be from 60 feet above the ground and visitors will be able to walk an 850-foot ramp through the forest canopy to get to the tower’s peak.
“Generations have been visiting this tower,” said Steve Strucely, business manager of Friends of Peninsula State Park, adding that the ramp through the forest will add a “feel that wasn’t there before with just the tower.”
While the ramp may help visitors feel like they’re climbing through a tree canopy, it will also allow more people enjoy the tower, he said.
The new tower and ramp, with its 5 percent slope, was designed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Missy Vanlanduyt, state Department of Natural Resources recreational partnerships section chief.
She said the tower and ramp combination is the only of its kind in the country. Many other similar observation towers would use elevators instead of a ramp to make it more accessible.
Construction is expected to begin early next year and be completed late-summer 2019, according to the DNR.
Friends of Peninsula State Park raised and donated the $750,000.
The project is estimated to cost $2.07 million, according to the DNR. Gov. Scott Walker included $750,000 in the current budget for the project, with the rest of the cost coming from other state and federal funds.
The project will also include a picnic area, parking, educational displays, benches and connections to other trails in the park.
Eagle Tower and its ramp will be constructed mostly of wood. The DNR anticipates a 100- to 150-year life span, Vanlanduyt said.
The design for the project was chosen by the DNR after receiving input from a work group and the public.
A memorable place
The original Eagle Tower was built in 1932 but closed to the public in 2015 after an inspection found the structure was in poor shape.
Strucely said he’s heard stories of generations returning to the park just for the 360-degree view the tower offers, in addition to other fond memories of the tower. He said many consider it the park’s best attraction.
“People keep coming back,” he said. “The main thing I think people enjoy is looking out over the water.”
The new tower will offer essentially the same views -- and new ones -- of the area and surrounding communities, but to more visitors than before, Vanlanduyt said.
“What makes the new one so special is you’ll have those same experiences but you’ll have new ones as well,” she said. “To be able to offer this view to everybody is unique.”