Group Works to Make Gordon Fire Tower a Camping Destination

Wisconsin fire towers were decommissioned in 2015, organization working to re-purpose it

GORDON, Wis. – A historical landmark in Northwest Wisconsin, known for its use protecting the community, is in threat of being torn down.

One local group, the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary, hopes to save it and turn it into the newest vacation destination.

When approaching Gordon, one familiar structure can always be seen rising above the trees.

“I’ve actually heard a number of people say that it’s the Eiffel Tower of Gordon and it’s funny because when you stand in our main street and look at it, it really is just this pinnacle point. Our main street goes and then, bam there’s the tower,” explained Brian Finstad, a board member of the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary organization.

Finstad grew up next door to the Gordon Fire Tower.

“There weren’t any kids around so we would climb up the tower and hang out with the tower, look out all day and blow bubbles and throw airplanes and watch the river,” recalled Finstad.

The local landmark was an active fire-spotting location for the Wisconsin DNR from 1935 until a few years ago.

“We’ve had members of the Gordon community who did this as a part–time job,” explained Cathy Dahlberg, another Friends of the Bird Sanctuary board member. “They would climb up that fire tower every morning and stay up there all day and watch for fire and if there was a fire then they had a way to communicate and let people know that there was a fire.”

In 2015, the DNR announced they would decommission the state’s seventy-two fire towers for safety and cost reasons, and they planned to tear the Gordon fire tower down.

“I contacted her on a Tuesday and found out it was going to go out for bid of scrap metal on Thursday,” said Finstad about his phone call with the DNR.

Finstad and the rest of the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary were given a year to come up with a plan to re-purpose the one hundred foot high structure.

“It’s sort of a fad right now that out west they’re re–purposing decommissioned fire towers for camping rentals and so I figured if other people are doing that and that’s successful, that sounds like a good idea,” said Finstad.

Friends of the Bird Sanctuary needs to raise about $25,000 to buy the 1.4 acre lot, the insurance, and turn it into the only campsite of its kind east of the Rockies.

“I think we’ll bring people in, not just local people but, if it goes on something like Airbnb, that’s international even,” said Dahlberg.

They hope to make a unique destination that will keep local history alive.

“It’s kind of funny to say Gordon has a skyline, but if this tower weren’t here, Gordon wouldn’t have a skyline,” said Finstad.

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