By Tim Kowols
For Egg Harbor Village Administrator Ryan Heise, Bob Bultman, Chris Olson, and Jeff Lutsey, their trek to Menominee, Michigan Saturday was worth more than the eight hours it took them to cross. The four began their 15-mile hike across the frozen waters of Green Bay from Egg Harbor at 7 a.m. and were greeted after 3 p.m. by close to 40 members of the Menominee Nation and the Save the River Coalition. The journey was a symbol of how close the county is to a planned open-pit
sulfide mine near the Menominee River, something Heise hopes more residents become more aware of and its potential effects.
Two pressure cracks and whiteout condition near the end of the trek caused the only delays for Heise, who says he would like to do it again in the future.
From Ryan Heise:
It’s not every day that you see a group of men walking across Green Bay, but a few perplexed fishermen, a smattering of wildlife and a passionate welcoming party, witnessed just that on Saturday, Febuary, 17th. A group of Door County adventurers completed a 15 mile march across Green Bay that started at 7:00 AM in Egg Harbor, WI, ending at 3:15 PM in Menominee, MI.
Ryan Heise, Door County resident and Village of Egg Harbor Administrator said, with heavy breaths just having completed the journey, that “While we share no land boundaries, we are united by water. We want Menominee and surrounding counties to know that Door County stands with them in their opposition to the Back 40 Mine. This walk was to raise awareness to the long-term threats to water quality and cultural heritage that the proposed Back 40 Mine has the potential to bring. People, especially my friends back in Door County should educate themselves and I think they will quickly realize what kind of legacy open pit sulfide mining has throughout the country. Should they want to consider a contribution to the opposition of the Back 40 Mine, it’s easy, go to jointherivercoaltion.org and contribute to the efforts to stop the mine.”
The adventurers with a cause said the trip was long, but generally safe. The first obstacle was discovered a few hundred yards offshore in Egg Harbor, a pressure crack with open water, which was navigated with caution. The group said that shipping channel was the real wild card, but with no cutting activity for the last few weeks, and low temperatures, they were pleased to find jagged chunks of ice frozen firmly into place. Whiteout conditions were experienced three quarters of the way through the trip. Fellow adventurer Jeff Lutsey, mentioned that “while we could see one another as exhaustion lead us in slightly separate directions, we lost all points of reference on land to keep us heading straight, that’s when the compasses and an old GPS unit made their debut. There was some moderate zigzagging going on, GPS tracked a 17 mile trip.” Walking conditions were equated to walking on a sand beach. “Thought I was in shape, I guess not.” Heise said with a smile and a wink with a frozen eyelash. The final obstacle was the pressure crack on the Menominee side. Heise- “A really nice guy named Scott, and his dog came out to show us safe passage.” Jeff Budish (Buddha), a member of the Save the River Coaltion and accomplished fishing guide, could be seen racing out in his truck to be among the first to welcome the exhausted hikers. “I’ve been talking to Buddha all week about the local ice conditions and the mine, great to finally meet him and we were both excited that we were able execute the plan as intended.” Others on the Menominee side braved the ice to provide hugs and warm greetings, including a mother and daughter combination on ice skates.
The welcoming party lead by Dale Burie and his wife Lea Jane, was electric and greeted the group with open arms, as 30 to 40 people showed their support, a Welcome Door County sign was particular admired by the red faced Door County residents. A group of women from the Menominee Nation shuffled cautiously onto the ice and sang a water song with tears rolling down a few cold cheeks. Chris Olson, a member of the Door County group, said that particular moment was profound, “This mine is a real threat to the Menominee Nation’s heritage, culture and way of life.”
“Mission accomplished,” says Bob Bultman, a Door County geologist, “When we saw the group of supporters, all pain and discomfort disappeared. Humbling and magical were words used to describe the reception held by the Save the Menominee Coalition and the Menominee Nation.