Contact(s): Missy Vanlanduyt, 608-266-7617, DNR Parks and Recreation or Paul Holtan, DNR Office of Communications, 608-267-7517
STURGEON BAY, Wis. - Significant wood decay has been found in the observation tower located at Potawatomi State Park creating unsafe conditions and requiring removal of the tower. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has permanently closed the tower, which has been closed for the winter season since last December.
A similar tower located at Peninsula State Park was removed in 2016 after studies found severe wood decay in that tower as well.
Routine inspections of the Potawatomi tower were conducted in the spring and early winter of 2017. During these inspections park staff found visual decay and movement of the structural wood tower members. DNR engineering staff were brought in and conducted additional inspections and recommended further review.
The DNR then again requested assistance from the USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, which had gained valuable experience from their inspection of Eagle Tower at Peninsula. Forest Product Laboratory staff conducted an inspection in February 2018 using non-destructive wood-testing methods to examine the wood members and the structural integrity of the tower. Their inspection found significant decay in the structural and non-structural wood members of the tower, and they recommended that the tower be closed to the public and dismantled because the decayed components could not be repaired.
"This is a difficult decision for us because we know how much our visitors enjoy climbing this tower for its panoramic views of Sawyer Harbor, Sturgeon Bay and Green Bay, but public safety is always our number one concern," said Ben Bergey, director of the Wisconsin State Park System.
The department is currently working with a number of partners to build a new fully accessible observation tower at Peninsula State Park to replace Eagle Tower that will be constructed in late 2018.
The 75-foot tall Potawatomi tower was completed in 1932. It was financed by an organization known as the Sawyer Commercial Club, which promoted economic development in the Village of Sawyer, the original name for Sturgeon Bay's west side before it was annexed in the late 1800s.
"At this time there are no plans to replace the tower, but we welcome opportunities to work with partners to provide additional recreation opportunities at the park, which could include new observation facilities in the future," Bergey said.
Any new structure would have to meet state and federal building codes and be fully ADA compliant and accessible.
The department will begin planning deconstruction of the tower immediately with the intention to complete it as soon as practicable.