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Grant helps shape geotourism around the Niagara Escarpment

Posted on Aug 11, 2022, by

A special international resource that has its beginnings in Southeastern Wisconsin is gaining a higher profile in our region, thanks to support from a Community Foundation fund.

Visitors to popular High Cliff State Park have seen the scenic rock formations that make the park unique. But they may not realize that those formations are a part of a 1,000-mile-plus geologic feature that spans from Southeastern Wisconsin to Niagara Falls.

High Cliff State Park

The Niagara Escarpment, also known as The Ledge, brings together history, culture, geology, and ecology—a perfect opportunity to build tourism and learning experiences throughout the region.

What I find exciting is how the Niagara Escarpment truly defines the landscape we currently live in. Those rock faces and glacial deposits played a huge role in shaping Northeast Wisconsin’s history, and it continues to influence our society today.

Through a $50,000 grant from the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation, in the past year Niagara Escarpment Resource Network (NERN) has been able to build the WI Ledge Rambler Geotourism Program designed to enhance and promote the group’s core focus areas associated with The Ledge. They include geotourism, special events and tours (which often combine local culinary experiences with outdoor activities), conservation efforts, and educational programs.

Just a few of the accomplishments of the program include:

  • hiring a part-time geotourism specialist
  • developing and promoting the WI Ledge Rambler Map Guide (
  • working with tourism partners and hosting multiple conservation events, tours, and hikes
  • implementing new interpretive signage.
  • updating the website.

NERN hopes to use the new WI Ledge Geotourism Program to better capture the economic and quality of life benefits for communities along the corridor, and to continue to be a catalyst for the conversations that are necessary to achieve our conservation goals.

NERN is a partner program of the Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership and began in 1998 with a mission to bring awareness and boost conservation efforts for Wisconsin’s 430 million-year-old Niagara Escarpment corridor.

Primarily using education as the tool to build awareness and appreciation of the Escarpment’s unique geologic and natural environments, we hope to build sense of community and stewardship around this landscape feature.

The David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation is a permanent, donor-advised endowment that generates millions of dollars in grants annually to charitable organizations reflecting the philanthropic interests of the late David and Rita Nelson and their family, primarily in the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas. These interests include parks, recreation and waterways; education; health care; community services and community centers; historic preservation and history — including lighthouses, museums and historical societies; and community catalyst opportunities. 

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