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The Ridges Sanctuary celebrates 80 years as Door County preserve

The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor, August 4, 2017. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

BAILEYS HARBOR (WLUK) -- A unique wetlands area in Door County is celebrating a milestone.

The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor bills itself at the state's oldest land trust.

On Saturday, the natural area will have a dedication ceremony, and party, to mark 80 years.

Even on a damp Friday morning, the trails at The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor were full of people on guided hikes.

"This is our first time actually taking a tour at The Ridges. It's gorgeous, just gorgeous. Even on a day like today, cloudy, wet day, it was beautiful," said Mark Sutherland, Highland Park, Illinois.

"I like walking. I like physical activity, especially with my family, and the history was terrific," said Sally Kall, Highland Park, Illinois.

"Our mission is all about education, research and land preservation," said Steve Leonard, The Ridges Sanctuary Executive Director.

Leonard says The Ridges has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1937.

"Started out with 40 acres, now we're up to 1600 acres," he said.

The Cook-Albert Fuller Nature Center Building is two years old. The exhibits inside went on display earlier this year. But Leonard says a wooden boardwalk that weaves into the sanctuary is what really gives people a chance to explore the site.

"For the first one-third of a mile, it's accessible for everybody. What we're seeing is families with strollers, and that's been really exciting is all generations can enjoy The Ridges," he said.

Five miles of rustic trails give people a chance to experience the 30 ridges and swales left behind by receding Lake Michigan water levels 1200 years ago. People can see rare plants, insects and more.

"Common species, from deer, porcupines, things like that. But it's a great experience behind every trail," said Leonard.

"As many times I've been out on the trails, and as many times I've been romping through the swales, there's never been a time when something hasn't connected with me with the natural world," said Tony Kiszonas, Sturgeon Bay.

The Ridges dedication gets going Saturday morning, featuring guided hikes and lunch will be served as well.

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