State Approves State Park Land Swap for Large Donor’s Golf Course

March 1, 2018

The Natural Resources Board approved a deal to give a major Republican campaign contributor state park land for a new high-end golf course he is building on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Plans for the 247-acre, 18-hole course call for about five acres of forest and wetland in the Kohler-Andrae State Park in Sheboygan County to build a golf course maintenance facility and service road. The course is being built by the Kohler Co., whose owner, Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., is a major contributor to Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The board voted Wednesday to swap about five acres of park land valued at nearly $60,000 on the northern edge of the park for nearly 10 acres of land valued at $295,000 owned by the Kohler Co. on the western edge of the park.  The deal also gives Kohler an easement of almost two acres to the main entrance road of the park and other land in order to extend a road to the planned maintenance building.

The controversial golf course project, which was announced in 2015, is opposed by a group of area residents who argue that the land being given up is of high ecological value and that the board does not have the authority to give away state park land in this case.

Kohler and other supporters of the project say it will boost the local economy and employ more than 200 people.

Kohler Co. employees contributed $60,765 between January 2010 and June 2017 to legislative and statewide candidates. Most of the employee contributions – $48,500 – were made by Herbert Kohler.

Herbert Kohler contributed $40,000 to Walker, $5,000 to GOP Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, $2,000 to Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, and $1,500 to former GOP Sen. Joe Leibham, of Sheboygan, between January 2010 and June 2017.

Kohler Co. has built two other high-end 18-hole golf courses in Wisconsin – Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits, which was the site of the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015.