The last large tract of woods on Geneva Lake is in jeopardy.  The Observatory wood is an 8-acre tract of woods in Williams Bay obtained by the University of Chicago in 1892 as part of the Yerkes Observatory and has been untouched by the succeeding generations. The hard wood forest is the largest intact forest on Geneva Lake and is an important habitat and shelter for wildlife and migrating birds.  The proposed development of the YERKES Observatory Wood and Lakefront is an irreversible, historic and significant risk to our heritage.

 There is a motion before the Williams Bay Board to rezone the land from Institutional to Residential zoning, which would prepare the woods to be sold for development for private lakefront housing.

We believe that all local and visiting citizens would benefit from the preservation of our beautiful lakefront and forest.   Rezoning the land for residential development will irrevocably damage the woods and valuable wildlife habitat.  Furthermore, rezoning the forest requires an amendment of the Williams Bay comprehensive plan where the people of Williams Bay clearly expressed their desire to respect and protect our natural areas from development.  Our undisturbed land and lake shore make Williams Bay unique!

There are better, viable options for this land, and we would like the opportunity to explore those options.  For example, the woods and adjoining lake front could become a School Forest, a place for kids to learn about the natural world in an outdoor classroom, and it could be a peaceful public boat launch for non-motorized vehicles such as paddle boards, kayaks, small sailing craft, and canoes.

We simply ask for more time to study viable land options for the Observatory Wood and Lakefront that do not involve development and private ownership.