Construction Update: Lake Access Staircase
Construction on the public access stairway to Lake Michigan is approximately 50% complete. To date, this work was largely completed during the winter months. Department staff, contractors, and other partners continually observed site conditions throughout 2021 for suitable, safe access to continue project activities. The remaining construction work recently began in January, 2022 under frozen conditions, with expected completion in spring 2022. Restoration activities will continue into spring and summer 2022 as site conditions allow.
Grant History, Design, and Engineering
o Department has been working with Wisconsin Coastal Management Program (WCMP) and Wisconsin Coastal Hazards Work Group since 2015 on the design, engineering, and construction unique pilot project for public access to Lake Michigan.
o The County received design and engineering funds from Wisconsin DNR Stewardship and WCMP in 2017 and 2018. This unique, pilot project design and engineering include patented construction techniques as well as meets international design standards for a public access structure. A stairway structure meeting international design standards for a bluff site has not previously been constructed for public use.
o In finalizing design and engineering plans to meet these international standards (e.g., PE stamped engineering plans), construction cost estimates doubled from original concept plans.
o Stairway construction has been designed and phased to protect the sensitive bluff ecology and has not caused additional erosion at the site.
o The County has simultaneously conducted and completed a surface and groundwater study for all of Virmond County Park that will guide the sustainability of this unique pilot public access project (funded by a 2021 WCMP Coastal Resiliency grant).
Construction Status and Phasing
o County secured Phase I construction funding and began construction in the winter of 2019 – 2020.
o Phase I construction was completed at the end of winter 2020, which represents approximately 50% of the total construction.
o County phased the construction project for several reasons:
- Suitable site conditions for construction, as the frozen ground is most suitable for safe working conditions and to minimize impact to sensitive bluff ecology.
- Full staircase completion was not possible during a single winter construction season.
- Phased construction has allowed for seasonal stairway adjustments.
- Required for meeting Phase I construction grant timelines.
- Allowed for securing remaining funding for Phase II construction.
o At the outset of Phase I construction, the County secured significant funding for Phase II construction (WCMP and private foundation grants).
o Phase II construction funding includes bluff top gateway amenities (informational kiosk, brick paver path), additional landscaping, and native vegetation restoration.
- Vegetation restoration is being guided by ecological experts from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, UW Sea Grant, State of Wisconsin Coastal Hazards Work Group and the Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department.
o The County monitored conditions throughout the spring, summer, and fall of 2021 for possibly resuming construction.
o Construction of Phase II recently resumed in January, 2022 with the start of suitable site conditions (e.g., frozen bluff face) to protect the ecologically sensitive bluff and allow for safe working conditions, with full stairway construction and restoration activities completed by summer 2022.
o Phase II stairway construction funding has been secured; however, grant match funding including gateway amenities still requires additional assistance (https://www.co.ozaukee.wi.us/540/Planning-Parks).
o Thank you! Donations and private foundation grants have currently raised 1/3 of the remaining funding required for grant match to implement gateway and restoration activities.
Current progress of the staircase construction
About the Park
Virmond Park is a 63 acres park that provides breathtaking panoramic views from the bluffs that overlook Lake Michigan. Take a stroll through the nature conservancy, play volleyball, baseball, soccer, tennis, enjoy a family picnic, or relax in the pavilion. Please call ahead for pavilion reservations.
George Virmond, originally donated this woods and vacant land in 1944, with the request of developing a park for all to enjoy.
Many people are currently using this park for tennis, volley ball, baseball, soccer, children's playground and weddings. The park also has several excellent hiking trails through the nature preserve areas.
Accessible public bathrooms are located at the park.
Reservations can be made for either of the two shelter buildings, the bluff area, or the sand volleyball court. A fee must accompany the application. Reservations can be made on our Parks, Recreation & Culture page.
The Lake Michigan vista from the high clay bluffs are what make Virmond Park so unique. The bluffs tower over the Lake Michigan shoreline at a height of 90 to 110 feet and create amazing views out over Lake Michigan. Virmond Park is a great place to have a picnic or enjoy a game of tennis or volleyball while the kids play on the playground. The hiking and walking trails are also host to cross-country running meets. Virmond Park also contains one of three Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Ozaukee County and is on the Lake Michigan Flyway. The County is actively maintaining native habitat for birds. Diving ducks, loons, grebes, migrant raptors, and passerines are attracted to Virmond Park’s shoreline and woodland areas.