Ozaukee County nature preserve twice the size of Lion's Den Gorge

Cedar Gorge, a nature preserve almost twice the size of Lion's Den Gorge in Grafton is in the works in Ozaukee County. The land is expected to be in the hands of the county by the end of September.

The land is located along Lake Shore Road north of Ulao Parkway across from the Flying S Ranch in Grafton.

"When you get in there, the Lake Michigan climate sorts of hits you like a wall," said Tom Stolp.

Stolp has spent years working to preserve the 134 acres along Lake Michigan in Ozaukee County. He's now one big step closer to making it happen.

"That means we officially have all the funds ready to purchase the property," said Stolp.

Stolp is the executive director of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust. The nonprofit learned Governor Tony Evers is allocating $2.3 million of American Rescue Plan money to the project, meaning once they finalize the sale, they can gift the land to Ozaukee County and start the work to turn it all into a nature preserve, called the Cedar Gorge Clay Bluffs.

"Of course, a very extensive trail system, taking visitors throughout the 134 acres, out to the lake, enjoying some of those amazing Lake Michigan views," said Stolp.

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Stolp says there is also a plan to build a multi-use bike trail connecting Cedar Gorge to Lion's Den Gorge and up to Port Washington, something that can be enjoyed for generations.

"This will be a special place, and we’ll be coming here for a long time," said Stolp.

An exact timeline for the project still depends on a lot of factors, but this preserve could be partially open by summer 2023.