Update: Lake Michigan Access Staircase
The Virmond County Park Stairway is closed for the season and will re-open on 5/1/2024.
The public access staircase to Lake Michigan at Virmond County Park was completed and opened to the public in August 2023!
To date, this work was largely completed during the winter months. Department staff, contractors, and other partners have been continually observing site conditions throughout for suitable, safe access to continue project activities. Due to recent toe erosion on the bluff and changing lake levels, the Department completed revised design and engineering plans that assisted in completing the stairway to the beach. The Department is seeking additional donations to fund this final phase.
Watch a video about the project here!
Grant History, Design, and Engineering
- The Department has been working with Wisconsin Coastal Management Program (WCMP) and Wisconsin Coastal Hazards Work Group since 2015 on the design, engineering, and construction unique pilot project for public access to Lake Michigan.
- The County received design and engineering funds from Wisconsin DNR Stewardship and WCMP in 2017 and 2018. This unique, pilot project design and engineering include patented construction techniques as well as meets international design standards for a public access structure. A stairway structure meeting international design standards for a bluff site has not previously been constructed for public use.
- In finalizing design and engineering plans to meet these international standards (e.g., PE stamped engineering plans), construction cost estimates doubled from original concept plans.
- Stairway construction has been designed and phased to protect the sensitive bluff ecology and has not caused additional erosion at the site.
- The County has simultaneously conducted and completed a surface and groundwater study for all of Virmond County Park that will guide the sustainability of this unique pilot public access project (funded by a 2021 WCMP Coastal Resiliency grant).
Construction Status and Phasing
- The County secured Phase I construction funding and began construction in the winter of 2019 – 2020.
- Phase I construction was completed at the end of winter 2020, which represents approximately 50% of the total construction.
- The County phased the construction project for several reasons:
- Suitable site conditions for construction, as the frozen ground is most suitable for safe working conditions and to minimize impact to sensitive bluff ecology.
- Full staircase completion was not possible during a single winter construction season.
- Phased construction has allowed for seasonal stairway adjustments.
- Required for meeting Phase I construction grant timelines.
- Allowed for securing remaining funding for Phase II construction.
- At the outset of Phase I construction, the County secured significant funding for Phase II construction (WCMP and private foundation grants).
- Phase II construction funding includes bluff top gateway amenities (informational kiosk, brick paver path), additional landscaping, and native vegetation restoration.
- Vegetation restoration is being guided by ecological experts from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, UW Sea Grant, State of Wisconsin Coastal Hazards Work Group and the Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department.
- The County monitored conditions throughout the spring, summer, and fall of 2021 for possibly resuming construction. Construction of Phase II resumed in January, 2022 with the start of suitable site conditions (e.g., frozen bluff face) to protect the ecologically sensitive bluff and allow for safe working conditions.
- Due to toe erosion on the bluff in 2022, the County has completed revised design and engineering plans that will assist in completing the stairway to the beach. This revised design required a Phase III construction.
- Phase III construction went through winter 2022-23, with final completion in August 2023!
- Phase II stairway construction funding has been secured; however, grant match funding including gateway amenities and funding for Phase III still requires additional assistance. If you would like to donate to this project, please visit the Donations & Gifts webpage. Thank you!
Staircase Featured In the News
Watch these videos of the staircase, featured in local news:
Blog Post Featuring Staircase
The Virmond County Park Stairway to Lake Michigan was featured in this A Wealth of Nature blog post by Eddee Daniel - "Year in Review: The Best of 2023 from The Natural Realm"
About the Park
Virmond Park is a 63 acre park that provides breathtaking panoramic views from the bluffs that overlook Lake Michigan. Take a stroll through the nature conservancy, play volleyball, baseball, soccer, tennis, or pickleball, enjoy a family picnic, or relax in the pavilion.
George Virmond, originally donated this woods and vacant land in 1944, with the request of developing a park for all to enjoy.
Many park visitors are currently using this park for sports, the children's playground, and weddings. The park also has several excellent hiking trails through the nature preserve areas.
Accessible public bathrooms are located at the park. These bathrooms will be closed during the winter, but a portable bathroom will be available.
6:00 am - 9:00 pm
Reservations can be made for either of the two shelter buildings, the bluff area, or the sand volleyball court. A fee must accompany the application. Reservations can be made on our Reservations Page.
The large eastern paved parking lot has 45 parking spaces and 4 accessible parking spaces. The smaller western paved parking lot has 16 parking spaces and 2 accessible parking spaces.
A new pickleball court was added to the park in September 2022!
The Lake Michigan vista from the high clay bluffs are what make Virmond Park so unique. The bluffs tower over the Lake Michigan shoreline at a height of 90 to 110 feet and create amazing views out over Lake Michigan. Virmond Park is a great place to have a picnic or enjoy a game of tennis or volleyball while the kids play on the playground. The hiking and walking trails are also host to cross-country running meets. Virmond Park also contains one of three Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Ozaukee County and is on the Lake Michigan Flyway. The County is actively maintaining native habitat for birds. Diving ducks, loons, grebes, migrant raptors, and passerines are attracted to Virmond Park’s shoreline and woodland areas.
For questions about Virmond Park, contact the park caretaker at (262)241-5868.