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our Great Apple Oak awakes to summer

Contact: Chuck Ebeling



Press Points – Saving Yerkes Observatory– May 2, 2018


  1. A new foundation, the Yerkes Future Foundation (YFF), today sent an “Expression of Interest” letter to David Chiaro, associate VP of the University of Chicago, indicating that concerned citizens of the Geneva Lake areas have come together as a cohesive organization with the desire to work with the university regarding the transfer of ownership of Yerkes Observatory, including its contents and associated land. The university had previously announced it plans to close Yerkes on Oct. 1, 2018 and is open to proposals regarding its future.


  1. The chair of YFF is Dianna Colman, a local Geneva Lake area resident, who heads a group of founding members.


  1. It was on this day 125 years ago that the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 opened, and one of the displays was the revolutionary new 40-inch telescope – then and now the world’s largest operating through-the-lens telescope – which would be installed at the new Yerkes Observatory near the shores of Geneva Lake, Wisconsin, in 1897.



  1. The goals of YFF are to preserve the historic features of both the observatory building and the site and at the same time make the facility open to the public, available for youth development and continuing education as a science center.


  1. A public meeting is planned by YFF to introduce and discuss its Expression of Interest, to be held Monday, May 14, at George Williams College of Aurora University, at Williams Bay, Wisconsin, at 7 pm in the Seabury Room in Beasley Campus Center.


  1. This proposal is being made by YFF “with a genuine concern for all aspects of the Yerkes entity but also with a deep respect for the Village of Williams Bay, its citizenry, the greater Geneva Lake community and the future, science, astronomy and architectural students who will benefit from the open and enhanced environment of Yerkes Observatory.”



  1. The YFF believes an endowment of at least 10 to 15 million dollars will be needed to preserve and operate the observatory, depending on deferred capital expenses necessary to have the building and grounds meet minimum standards.


  1. The YFF encourages the University of Chicago to give their proposal prompt and thoughtful consideration and looks forward to entering a dialog with the university leading to a good result.


CE and the SeaBell, 7-09

CE and the SeaBell, 7-09


South LSD Viewshed 2015

(click to open article)

Lake Geneva Kennel Club June 2014

Pictured today is what is left of the long-closed Lake Geneva Kennel Club in Delavan, WI.

Saturday night saw us climb the historic steps of Yerkes Observatory at Williams Bay, Wisconsin, for an evening of showering meteors, music wafting up from the lake shore, and fireworks over the Bay. Yerkes is the world’s first astrophysical laboratory, and home to the world’s largest conventional telescope. Visiting friends from Chicago prompted us to join Yerkes chief tour guide Richard Dreiser for a late night reverie under the annual Perseid meteor shower.

We began the evening in the darkness outside the observatory, straining our naked eyes and using binoculars to spot the first few meteors racing across the sky. We spotted several man-made satellites too, including the space station, making their slow un-twinkling progress, unlike the high airplanes with their strobing. Gradually we spotted various stars, and then the foamy Milky Way began to appear. Meanwhile soft strains of music drifted up to us from the waterside pavilion that is home to the Music By The Lake summer series at George Williams College.

Then, we walked the long corridor and up a three-story circular staircase to the dome of the 24-inch reflector. As the dome motor cranked away, and the giant curving blades parted, slight flashes reflected the fireworks show beginning a mile away at the Bay, where hundreds of pleasure boats gathered to watch. We then each had a chance to view Saturn and its rings, and M57, the spectacular summer centerpiece of the northern hemisphere night skies, pictured here. It was a magical evening under the stars.




Another cat joined our first today, as artist Mike Bihlmaier (815-404-6375) continues his chainsaw sarving on our deceased, but still kicking, bicentennial oak here at Applewood. Here’s the latest progress:

Last night, I witnessed, along with more than 150 other agitated citizens, a City Council meeting in the small Wisconsin resort town of Lake Geneva, where the mayor and aldermen, including two women, “entertained” with a stylized Kabuki performance in which the local government’s secret greed for geographic growth was pushed into the open through challenges by dozens of local citizen speakers intent on restraining such growth urges and preserving the small-town character of their community.

At issue was a massive 710-acre partially wooded rural site, a major watershed into pristine Geneva Lake, with important wetlands, adjacent to a State Park, which separates the site from the rest of Lake Geneva. The property had been purchased from local farmers by a developer more than a decade ago. He tried to get it rezoned for residential building by the Town of Linn. Failing that, he urged the land be annexed by the City of Lake Geneva, where he thought he’d get a better development deal. But when he property was annexed, and the developer came forward with plans for more than a thousand homes and a golf course community, the citizenry balked, and opposed such a massive development that would over time almost double the size of their city. Plans were revised, but the city council rejected the project, under increasing pressure from it citizenry.

Last night, dozens of the citizens present spoke out, with passion, intelligence and even rhetorical brilliance, on the need to protect and preserve this land in a natural state, for a variety of environmental reasons and to constrain the long-term growth of their small lakeside community. The City Council listened to hour after hour of such heart-felt testimony, then quickly moved to a vote, with most of the council members saying nary a word. One alderman had the courage, at the last-minute, to point a finger at the mayor, suggesting that an under-the-counter deal had been made with the developer. to drop a $120 million law suit against the city claiming it had unfairly blocked the developer, in exchange for a vote to remap the land from rural holding (meaning 20 years — a generation — before residential development could be considered) to residential. Such remapping would be the first step in rezoning the land to allow housing development. The city’s corporation counsel hushed the nervous alderman.

The citizens argued that the community’s Comprehensive Master Plan, adopted less than 18 months ago, requires the land to remain rural. The City Council seemed to view their own master plan as being just as irrelevant as they viewed the citizen speaker opinions. The City Council chose to ignore a previous community referendum which had overwhelmingly turned down the proposed development.

The dance played out, as choreographed by the City Council. After the mayor mumbled that the city, which currently already has 1100 other approved residential development sites, at a time when nothing is being developed, must plan for the future, and have an area to grow, the council voted to let its small town character slip away, delivering on its decade-old secret promise to give the developer exactly what he wanted. It was nearly midnight when the dejected citizens could go home, having witnessed a performance that left them further ashamed of and estranged from their community’s government.

This dance may be over, but the play continues.

March 2023

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