Libertyville couple donates $4.5 million of land in Wisconsin
Libertyville residents Carolyn and Ken Aldridge recently dedicated nearly 3,200 acres of land in northern Wisconsin as the Winter Park Pines Nature Preserve near Minoqua, which will protect the property as open space in perpetuity. Photo courtesy of Ken Aldridge
Updated: March 3, 2012 8:24AM
Ken Aldridge has loved the Northwoods of Wisconsin ever since he was a child.
So when the Libertyville resident learned that a favorite wilderness refuge near Minocqua was threatened by development, he decided to act.
In June 2010, Aldridge and his wife, Carolyn, purchased nearly 3,200 acres of land near the Minocqua Winter Park, located south of Minocqua off of Highway 70, for $4.5 million. In December, the Aldridges completed one of the largest conservation easement donations in Wisconsin history to the Northwoods Land Trust, a non-profit land conservation group based in Eagle River, Wis., which will preserve the land in its natural state in perpetuity.
“If we didn’t buy it, it was going to be developed, and we wanted to preserve the way it is forever,” he said.
Aldridge, owner and chief executive officer of Aldridge Electric in Libertyville, said the Minocqua area of Wisconsin has been a favorite place for his family to vacation ever since his mother first visited there in 1920. For about 35 years, he and his wife have skied the trails of the Minocqua Winter Park, a popular location for cross country skiing owned by the village of Minoqua, and also hike the trails in that area during the summer months.
Aldridge said they decided to purchase surrounding the park after learning that the logging company which owned the land was beginning heavy logging operations on the property and had plans to subdivide and sell it. The trail system has been used extensively over the years by cross country skiers from the Minocqua Winter Park.
“We bought it to preserve the ski trails for the Minocqua Winter Park and also to preserve the river, the wetlands, the ponds and the forest,” he said.
Aldridge said they made the conservation easement donation as a way to give back to the Northwoods region for all of the enjoyment his family has had there over the years and “to preserve something we really love.”
The 3,200 acres will be called the Winter Park Pines Nature Preserve. Open space advocates in Wisconsin were ecstatic by the donation.
“It’s the largest conservation easement donation to a Wisconsin land trust,” said Bryan Pierce, executive director of the Northwoods Land Trust, a non-profit land conservation organization that covers a six-county area in northern Wisconsin, which will oversee management of the property.
Pierce said one of the biggest benefits of the Aldridges’ donation is it maintains access to the public for cross country skiers and snowshoers who use the trail system of the Minocqua Winter Park, which is considered “one of the premier cross country ski areas in the Midwest.” He said the land is also natural habitat to a variety of wildlife including osprey, bald eagles, timber wolves and deer.
“It’s an incredible gift to all current and future generations,” he said.
Under the terms of land conservation easement, the property remains in private ownership and could be split into 12 parcels and sold as individual parcels but the only thing that could be built on each parcel would be a small cabin.
“It’s still private land,” Pierce said. “It’s subject to property taxes and can be passed on to heirs or sold but whoever owns in it in the future has to abide by the restrictions in the conservation easement.”