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Kishwauketoe marks 20 years



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August 04, 2010 | 08:54 AM
Williams Bay — It was 20 years ago that this lakeside village took a road not traveled by other Geneva Lake communities.

When a developer arrived here with plans for an $81 million lakeside development, the people didn't rush out to meet this potentially lucrative source of tax revenue. Instead, village residents and the Village Board, worried that the development would damage the quality of the lake, rallied to acquire the land and turn it into a nature conservancy open to residents and visitors all year long.

Now, instead of a lakeside lined with restaurants, hotels and businesses, the largest property in Williams Bay to face the lake is the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. Kishwauketoe is a Potawatomi Indian word meaning "clear water."

Seen by many as a rare gem on Geneva Lake, the conservancy preserves a lakeside ecology long since swallowed by development, farming and homes in other areas.

The anniversary of the conservancy's creation was marked Saturday with a short ceremony attended by about 75 conservancy members, volunteers and friends, featuring food, music and poetry readings. Also there were relatives of the late Thomas Johnson, a Kishwauketoe commissioner who died in 2008.

Harold Friestad, a founder and now chairman of the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy Commission, said the conservancy's 231 acres are in need of constant care, as volunteers replace native plants and trees while removing invasive species. The conservancy staff is now working on a cross country ski trail that should be ready by winter. The conservancy commission is also working with the village and the Geneva Lake Conservancy to control potential development around Kishwauketoe, he said.

Addressing those gathered for the ceremony, Kathleen Johnson, Thomas Johnson's widow, said that although her late husband had an indoor job, he was an avid outdoorsman who loved Kishwauketoe. The Johnson family donated the $18,000 to build the new bridge. She then dedicated the new, arched cedar wood pedestrian bridge and unveiled the bronze plaque that will be secured to the bridge, reminding visitors whose name it bears.

Among those in the audience was Jim Malloy and his wife Mary, of Peotone, Ill. Malloy owns the business Cedar Bridges, where the five-foot-wide, 38-foot-long bridge was constructed. Malloy said it took three of his employees three weeks to build the bridge. It was then shipped by flat-bed trailer in one piece, and installed over the creek in Kishwauketoe by crane. Friestad said the bridge was installed June 16.

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