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G. Douglass Cofrin Gateway

The Cofrin Arboretum Gateway was dedicated in August, 2003 to commemorate the generosity of G. Douglass (Doug) Cofrin and his family. This green corridor links the center of campus with a 7+ mile trail system in the Cofrin Memorial Arboretum, a 300 acre natural area surrounding the campus. The Gateway today is a combination of planted pollinator habitat and “old field,” a mixture of grasses, shrubs, and other plants that have colonized abandoned agricultural fields.

In October 2002, students, faculty, staff and community members planted approximately 100 oak seedlings in an effort to hasten the transition from old field to forest. Acorns from white oaks in the UW-Green Bay (Shorewood) Golf Course had been collected and planted by Dr. Brock Robinson, an area physician and neighbor of the university. The Shorewood oaks, some of which exceed 150 years in age, are remnants of the area’s original vegetation described by land surveyors in the 1840’s.

In spring 2018, Cofrin Center staff began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a five acre pollinator planting in the Gateway to improve wildlife habitat, learning opportunities and campus aesthetics. The pollinator planting successfully converted former agricultural land primarily dominated by the invasive reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) to a diverse mix of wildflowers and native grasses that bloom throughout different periods of the growing season. Continued efforts have been made to build on plant diversity and pollinators that use this space by identifying enhancement zones and installing plant plug species that are not currently found within the planting.

The Gateway Trellis, residing just south of Mary Ann Cofrin Hall is a structure for native vines like Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and river bank grape (Vitis riparia) to occupy. The Trellis will also offer itself as a space to sit, relax and enjoy views of the adjacent pollinator planting and wildlife. Animals frequently seen in this area include White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) and grassland songbirds like Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) and Clay-colored Sparrow (Spizella pallida).

G. Douglass Cofrin

George Douglass Cofrin was instrumental in establishing the Cofrin Arboretum along with his brothers and sisters and uncle, Dr. David A. Cofrin, and his family. Their generosity led to the development of trails, plantings, purchase of additional property, and an endowment that continues to provide educational opportunities for students and faculty at UW-Green Bay. At the time (1975), the donation from Doug and his brothers and sisters was the largest donation ever given to a University of Wisconsin institution outside of the Madison campus. When their father died, the children wanted to honor him and their grandfather, Austin E. Cofrin. In Douglass' words: "We wanted something outdoors, not just some museum piece; something people would get fun out of…" Today, the Cofrin Arboretum is one of Green Bay's most popular destinations for hiking, biking, and nature appreciation, fulfilling Doug's hope and continuing to provide a source of enjoyment and education for thousands of people every year.

Doug Cofrin was the oldest of six children born to John Paige Cofrin and Barbara Hauxhurst Cofrin. Doug Cofrin’s father and grandfather were founders and CEO of Fort Howard Paper Company in Green Bay. Douglass grew up in Green Bay and eventually attended Cornell University, where he graduated with a degree in economics in 1965. He received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1968 and later graduated from Career Academy in radio announcing. His pursuits included ownership of two radio stations, development of Milwaukee Magazine, world travels, and a candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 1980. In July of 2000 he moved to Easter Island in the South Pacific, which had been one of his favorite travel destinations. He died on Easter Island of pneumonia on February 17, 2002. We lost an important figure in the history of UW-Green Bay, but the generosity of Doug Cofrin and his family will always be remembered here.