MILWAUKEE (AP) — An archaeological study has found thousands of cultural artifacts at a proposed 18-hole golf course the Kohler Co. plans for the shore of Lake Michigan.
Some of the artifacts date back more than 2,000 years, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The newspaper obtained a copy of the report after making a records request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A federal official said the relics could affect the eventual design of Kohler’s planned high-end course on 247 acres in Sheboygan County. The privately held company said last week it believes it can build the course while respecting past cultures that lived there.
According to the report, archaeologists found more than 25,000 prehistoric and historic artifacts in 96 digs across 195 acres. Excavations last year turned up pottery fragments, stone tools, arrows and a grooved ax. The items date back to the late Archaic period, between 1200 B.C. and 100 B.C. Most of the artifacts come from Woodland-era Indians, whose most recent inhabitants lived between 400 and 1100 A.D.
Kohler has said plans for the course will employ a “minimalist design that respects the land.” The planned course is the latest effort by Kohler to create a world-class golfing destination in the Sheboygan area. Kohler’s Whistling Straits was the site of the 2015 PGA Championship.
Environmental groups and neighbors in the town of Wilson have objected to the proposed course, citing concerns about the impacts on shoreline dunes and wetlands on land between Lake Michigan and the Black River.
The site contains one previously known burial mound that Kohler has said will not be disturbed. No other human remains or burial mounds were discovered during the 2015 excavations, the report said.
Ceramics, projectile points and other artifacts also were discovered in a 2014 survey by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Cultural Resources Management Program.
Archaeologist Bradley Johnson of the Army Corps of Engineers calls the findings “significant.” In a letter last month to the Wisconsin State Historical Society, Johnson said the prehistoric material would make the site eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Commonwealth Cultural Resources Group Inc., the firm that conducted the dig on behalf of Kohler, also said the site satisfied criteria for listing on the national register.
The state Historical Society must make the decision on a historic designation. The organization declined to comment last week on specifics of the Kohler project.
If the artifacts could be damaged, Johnson said the Corps would require Kohler to first avoid them and then, if necessary, to minimize the impact.
Jim Richerson, group director of golf at Kohler, said in a statement that the company believes it can develop a golf course “that will avoid, minimize and mitigate adverse impacts while enhancing the natural beauty of the land.”
But opponent Mary Faydash of the Friends of the Black River Forest said artifacts should remain undisturbed.
“This land needs to be preserved for posterity — not for a golf course,” Faydash said.