STURGEON BAY – City leaders and tourism officials believe residents and visitors will have even more reason to visit Graham Park on the downtown waterfront than before.
After a little more than two years of work, the remodeled park at the East Side foot of the Maple-Oregon Bridge officially reveals its new features with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, June 3. The public is invited to attend.
Before the project to redo the park broke ground in June 2020, it was mainly a green space in front of Center Pointe Marina with a walkway along the Sturgeon Bay canal and a few tables.
Now, Graham Park’s look includes an amphitheater with seating that was built last summer where visitors can attend acoustic music performances and other events or simply relax in a quieter space. There also are concrete pingpong tables, cornhole/bag toss games and chess and checkers tables where people can play for free (those also have been up since last summer) and flower gardens.
But the centerpiece of the park is “Confluence,” Door County’s only sculptural water feature on a peninsula with a long history of industry and recreation related to the waters surrounding it. The feature, which has a giant sail in the middle of a fountain pool, was designed by local artist Robert Soukup and made by the staff of Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, with engineering assistance from Bay Engineering and Tim Graul.
“It’s really exciting to see this project come to a conclusion,” Sturgeon Bay Administrator Josh VanLieshout said. “Getting all the activities down there … getting all these pieces in place and turned on is really exciting.”
VanLieshout said the impetus to redo the park came especially from Pam Seiler, then executive director of Destination Sturgeon Bay, aided by other community and business leaders including Sterling Landscape Services.
The project was expected to cost about $450,000 and was funded entirely by private donations, including sales of commemorative brick pavers, benches and trees. Sterling Landscape donated the landscaping master plan and adopted the park for five years under the city’s adopt-a-park program. The park remains owned by the city, but Sterling will oversee its maintenance until the city takes over in 2026.
“That wasn’t by the city,” VanLieshout said. “It was an investment others wanted to make in a public space, and that makes it special.”
The remodeled park is the latest result of the efforts to upgrade Sturgeon Bay’s downtown waterfront and add attractions on both sides of the canal. The city has three parks on the water — Bay View and Sawyer on the West Side, along with Graham — plus Martin Park about a block away with its Harmony By the Bay free concerts on summer Wednesday nights in its own amphitheater.
And there’s the new 10-floor Jim Kress Maritime Lighthouse Tower at the Door County Maritime Museum and the historic 90-foot-tall Teweles & Brandeis grain elevator that’s being remodeled into the Door County Granary cultural and events center, both looming over the West Side waterfront.
The city also erected wayfinding signs at its main entrances off the State 42/57 bypass and pedestrian totems on downtown sidewalks about a year and a half ago to direct people to its points of interest and promote Sturgeon Bay as a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly community.
VanLieshout compared the recent increase in downtown and waterfront development and upgrades to a similar interest in the waterfront in the 1990s, when a number of projects were developed there including Stone Harbor Resort.
“All these (recent projects) are catalyzing investments,” he said. “We saw that investment we had in the ’90s inspire other investments, and we’re seeing that now.”
Destination Sturgeon Bay, the city’s tourism bureau, will host the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Graham Park, at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue. City officials and others important to the project will be on hand.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]
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