Brickyard Creek Handbook


Identity Statement, Vision, and History

Brickyard Creek (BYC) is an environmental residential community on the shores of Lake Superior dedicated to active stewardship and tranquility. BYC is focused on:

  • Lake
  • Land
  • Learning
  • Legacy
  • Lifestyle
  • Leadership

Adopted by the Board of Directors 9/8/11

Brickyard Creek (BYC) Vision

The BYC Vision is our Philosophy Statement. It communicates a shared purpose and direction for the continuous improvement of this boreal forest environment and the collective stewardship mission of the residential community.

This community is committed to maintaining this unique environment, promoting responsible educated citizens, sustaining a network of partnerships (with the broader community) and creating a legacy of responsible stewardship for all who share in the experience we call Brickyard Creek.

The original concept for the development of the woodland homes remains a key part of the resident’s collective conscience. This is where “cabins are of the land not on the land”. The proximity to the Big Water of Gitchie Gummie (Lake Superior) allows each of us to witness the beauty and the power of nature while we contemplate our individual significance as well as our role and our shared responsibilities in this woodland community.

Our sense of stewardship seeks to promote preservation, protection and restoration of the wildlife and natural plant communities along with the creek, watershed and lake resources that move through and around us at BYC.

The investment of the residents goes far beyond the financial tangible commitments. The residents also invest in a host of intangibles including healthy living, recreation, life-long learning opportunities, solitude, tranquility and emotional safety.

Evidence of this community’s success will be documented in two ways:

  1. Residents collective commitment to a shared purpose and direction for BYC.
  2. Established expectations are aligned to the vision and supported by the residents, the seasonal guests and external partners.

These expectations serve as the focus for the continuous improvement efforts and the on-going assessment of stewardship effectiveness.

The BYC Vision Statement is meant to be an internal voice of accountability and a rationale for all of our actions. It acts as a guide to the BYC Board of Directors and the various subcommittees in the allocation of time and resources (human, material, and fiscal.)

Adopted 9/8/11 

In the Beginning

Bob Davidson, Principal Manager

Profile reprinted from the Regional Bayfield Conservancy Newsletter 

Written by Dennis McCann

Bob Davidson, the principal manager behind Brickyard Creek, laughs at the suggestion the “forest cabin community founded on active stewardship” just might give developers a good name. That, he said, citing over-developed tourist destinations like Door County, the Wisconsin Dells and even the North Shore, would be asking a lot. Still, Davidson makes clear his pride in the development of some 70 cottages in a wooded setting two miles north of Bayfield for the manner in which it settles into the landscape with minimal intrusion.

While providing cottage owners with a true North Woods experience, the community also works to preserve native plants and trees and disturb the native environment as little as possible. Brickyard Creek has developed an extensive labyrinth of walking trails, has brought in students from Northland College’s Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute to work with plants and lead “learning walks” and otherwise strives to make Brickyard Creek the “low-impact cottage neighborhood” Davidson and partner David Culberson, who met in the Caribbean while working on an eco-tour resort, had envisioned. Writing in the Boreal Forest Citizen, the community’s newsletter, Culberson noted the lake, the woods, wildflowers and hiking trails and told owners, “You were all attracted to something here, and it wasn’t just our good looks.” Davidson said what he is most proud of is that so many cottage owners have bought into the concept as well. “If you can be a developer and make money and also be proud of what you are doing,” he said, “you’re doing a pretty good thing.”

“There has to be, and there will be, development but it can be in the right place…and fit in.” Brickyard Creek’s reasons for supporting the preservation efforts of the Bayfield Regional Conservancy are just as obvious as it would seem, Davidson said. “We can only do a little part in our community, but BYC has the potential to do (preservation) on a much larger basis.”


The Original Brickyard Creek Vision

An April 2011 letter to Jeff Garrett from Dave Culberson


Thanks for asking me to give you some insight on the original Brickyard Creek Vision. It is always good to occasionally take stock of where you are, how you got there, and where you are going. It has been almost 15 years since Bob and I started thinking about what to do with this property. It didn’t take long to develop the vision. That part was easy. However, the learning process of trying to fit this vision into a northern climate and the effects of the mercurial nature of development were a different story. Bob is probably too old to remember much of this and there are things I don’t really care to remember. That said, this is what I have to contribute. It is more of a development philosophy than a history of Brickyard.

Having a vision for a development is important. It gives the developers and the ultimate homeowners a passion for their investment. Too many projects lack vision. They are simply copies of mass produced projects and lack character and identity. No single development can or should be everything to everyone. Whatever attraction existed that helped form the vision and create the neighborhood needs to be preserved. We have all seen places around the world where over-development or changes in buyer demographics destroys the very thing that brought people to its location in the first place. These are examples of a lost vision or, more often, lack of understanding the vision.

Brickyard was envisioned as a model of environmental sustainability. The density driven model didn’t work for us then and the world is now learning that these types of models don’t work in areas where nature is the attraction. We needed to create a model based on exclusivity and preservation. We wanted to set the bar for other developers and local government by creating a model that was environmentally thoughtful, economically profitable, and totally livable. Part of this seems to have worked. Ultimately, and with tremendous help from the home owners, placing a cottage style resort in an outstanding natural environment and implementing preservation and restoration concepts as part of everyday life, Brickyard has become a good example of how humans and nature can easily co-mingle, with no short or long-term damage to either. You might even say that both have benefited from this co-existence.

Brickyard has become a leading example environmental co-operation. This is a concept that I was working on before we created Brickyard and one that I continue to work on with a 12,000 acre island in Mexico that is home to the world’s largest congregation of whale sharks and is the Atlantic’s and Gulf of Mexico’s most important nesting area for the Carey (Hawks Bill) turtle. It also has over 540 species of birds and some of the most endangered plant species in Mexico and the Caribbean. I am implementing several Brickyard Creek concepts to help create a new resort destination model, one that relies entirely on nature-based travel. No golf courses, no multi-story buildings, a 350 foot setback from all beach front, and total development impact of less than 10% of the land. Just as with Brickyard Creek, on a smaller scale, this very large version will have one main amenity – Mother Nature. Hopefully, and critical for its success, the investors and homeowners will involve themselves with environmental awareness the same way you have at Brickyard Creek.

Taking these concepts a step further, one could argue that the conventional application of environmental preservation removes humanity from nature. We can put a fence around a forest and call it preservation, while it is still being heavily impacted by the surrounding community. We can read books on the subject and feel good, or visit natural protected areas for a few hours, and governments can offer broad policies that help protect the environment. But we cannot teach and we cannot learn about the importance of our natural environments unless we personalize the experience. With thoughtful design and building practices firmly in place, one has to touch, smell, taste, and live with their natural surroundings in order to learn how to respect it. Brickyard is a perfect example of this concept. As this type of environmental understanding and hands-on education continues to grow around the world there will be less need for “preservation”.

When project construction is complete developers usually move on, leaving the neighborhood in the hands of the owner’s association. Brickyard Creek owners have done a wonderful job expanding the original concept by implementing many successful partnerships with local NGOs and government agencies and promoting environmental awareness through on-site programs and newsletters. This is a time consuming process and difficult for developers to implement. As developers, Bob and I are very grateful that you have created this kind of pride in our neighborhood by continuing with and expanding upon the original vision.

As Brickyard continues to grow and as individual ownership of cottages changes and a new generation of “Brickguardians” moves in, it is even more important to understand and adhere to the original vision. In order understand the details needed to preserve the original vision Brickyard owners simply need to look around. The template is everywhere. Ask your neighbors why they own part of Brickyard. Walk the nature trails. Count the number of plants and animals you see that you would never see in a less natural environment? Why is a boreal forest thriving throughout a developed property? Could conventionally designed homes provide the same light footprint that allows the natural environment to literally live within inches of your doorstep?

Assuming Brickyard Creek owners plan to preserve this vision, there is a potentially superb challenge for this stewardship, a challenge that could place Brickyard in the front of the pack on a national level.

We have created an environmentally sustainable development but complete sustainability also involves social and economic sustainability. It could be easily argued that Brickyard, because it is primarily a second home community, meets anybody’s definition of economic sustainability. Brickyard requires much less public infrastructure and services than it contributes to the community through taxes and tourism dollars. Social sustainability involves relationships and networks that facilitate collective action. It is the glue that holds communities together. It influences individuals within the community and can ultimately influence government policy and social programs. Most importantly, it is not limited to material scarcity.

Brickyard cannot be viewed as its own “stand alone” community. Where does the community end – at the entrance? Or does it include the immediate area or the entire region? The community exists as far as its sphere of influence. In this case it includes not only the local area (Bayfield, Redcliff) but reaches as far as every one of you keeps your primary residence. Human capital is an important part of sustainability. Use your knowledge and skills to help teach other people and communities how to live with and respect their natural environments.

With all of the necessary tools in place, the Brickyard community could package its model of sustainability into a concise message and export it or pieces of it throughout its sphere of influence. You have a great story that needs to be heard so that other communities and developments might follow your example.


A Short History of Brickyard Creek

Featured in the Boreal Forest Citizen Fall/Winter 2006/7 Vol. 1

Sitting very comfortably in the trade winds at my Caribbean home, I was struggling to envision the North woods. Bob, who was on St. John to work with me on an eco-tour resort, was describing land he had been purchasing near Bayfield. All I really knew from my geography books was that Bayfield was somewhere near the tundra, or on Lake Superior, or something like that. As Bob talked, I was picturing the quintessential small cottage nestled beneath the canopy of giant pines, surrounded with wild flowers, bear, and wolves – kind of like Little Red Riding Hood’s place. I was also wondering why most of his working trips to the tropics were in the winter. I didn’t give the North woods much thought after that, happy to be living in a place that never, in the darkest night in the middle of winter, saw a temperature reading below 63 F. – ever. Little did I know that two kids later, and with a lot of pressure from my now ex- wife, I would be moving back to America, where, after 15 years in the Caribbean, I landed in Northern Virginia with boxes of flip-flops and other useless tropical artifacts.

It wasn’t too long before Bob invited me to Bayfield to help him figure out what to do with all of those “North woods” properties he had purchased. I was looking forward to seeing this part of the world for the first time, but I was worried about the cold. Not having experienced winter in America for 15 years, I bought boots and a coat and headed to Minneapolis, where I was picked up at the heated airport in a heated car, parked in a heated garage and walked into a heated house. That was easy. The next day we started driving to Bayfield. I had always thought April was a relatively warm month. Not here. We stopped on the way and replaced my new boots and coat with newer boots and a warmer coat.

We drove through Duluth, where I got my first view of the largest lake in the world. There was ice in it. We traveled through a few small villages that seemed ready to be swallowed by either Lake Superior or the North woods, depending on which side of the highway you were on, and finally got to Bayfield. The trip left me a little puzzled. Some things were missing from my long held vision of the North woods. I turned to Bob and asked where all of the bear were.

They are still sleeping. 

Where are the wild flowers? 

It’s too early in the year. 

Where is Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother’s cottage? 

I don’t know. 

After a brief tour of Madeline Island and the Bayfield area, I started the first of a hundred walks through the Brickyard Creek forest. I’m glad I bought the new boots. Fortunately, spring turned to summer and I started to feel right at home – with the mosquitoes; though they were thicker and more persistent here than I had ever seen in the Caribbean. I guess when you only have three or four months to do your thing; you are certainly going to be hell bound for glory to do it. I had a great time exploring the forest alone, and was only chased out twice, once by a mother bear, and the other time by a mother partridge.

Bob had just finished a marina – almost, and he had put up a new industrial looking building where the employees of the National Park Service were happily going about their business of maintaining the nearby islands – well, that’s not quite true either, they didn’t seem happy. The land around the marina was at issue. What could be done with it? Should anything be done with it? It didn’t take a seasoned developer or a highly educated environmentalist to see that this land was obviously very unique. Lots of wild flowers, lots of bear, a great tree canopy – well, except for the meadow. A past associate of Bob’s had prematurely cut two large swaths through the forest south of the creek assuming, I guess, that he would need a storage area for all of the boats in the new marina. We later cleared all of the felled trees and decided to call our new open space, “The Meadow”. It seemed that the easiest thing to do with Brickyard would be to sub-divide the whole thing. The lakeshore lots would sell, but what about second and third tier lots. And what would happen to the trees and the wildlife in a conventional sub- division? As I spent more and more time walking the land, I kept coming back to the vision I had had when first hearing about this property. Though the “cottage” idea had not hit home yet, I did see several areas where, if properly sited, a cottage could be built to look as though it was born there.

Unsure what to do, I decided to travel around the region to see what other developments in the North woods looked like. Throughout Northern Wisconsin and the North Shore of Minnesota I saw the standard fare of town homes, strip centers, and the ubiquitous plastic sided suburban homes sitting proudly just inches from the closest roadway. I was afraid that my vision of the quintessential “Cottage in the North woods” was busted.

Back in Bayfield, I suggested to Bob that we might have an opportunity to develop a world class “Cottage” resort on the land behind the marina. With some arm-twisting and after a lot of explanation, he agreed. The planning of Brickyard Creek had officially started. After a lot of tweaking, the “Cottage Resort” idea evolved into a low-impact cottage neighborhood to be marketed as second (or third) homes. We were starting to get pretty excited about this project. We imported some of the concepts from our past eco resort project, invented a few more, hired an architect who was well versed in vernacular design, printed up some nice brochures, and waited for the buyers. Nothing happened. The locals and the people who were hanging around the new Marina thought we were nuts. I remember a conversation I had with one of them. It went something like this -

We are going to build “turn of the century” style cottages in the forest behind the marina. What about the mosquitoes?

We will clear an area just large enough for the footprint of the cottage and chip up the felled trees to create nature trails to the beach. What about the mosquitoes?

We will create a set of legal documents that will allow for the forest surrounding each cottage to be preserved an even enhanced. We won’t allow lawns, clear cutting, traditionally designed foundations, or any other environmentally destructive convention. What about the mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes? We will use bacillus thuringinsis. What’s that? It is a soil bacterium that kills mosquito larvae naturally. What will the bats eat?

Things were pretty slow around here in the beginning. We had no buyers, but we did have a lot of head-scratching tire kickers who, once they learned about this crazy scheme, would go home to pack up their family and friends and bring them along just to see the circus. Encouraged, we decided to build a model cottage. We built a Creekside design just across the creek from the marina. We didn’t have a bridge so I placed a couple of logs over the creek for access to the model from our office at the marina. My contention was that anybody who couldn’t cross the creek on the logs without falling in shouldn’t own a cottage in the North woods. Bob didn’t agree. So, armed with a brand new vehicular bridge and our brand new Creekside Cottage, we prepared for the onslaught of eager buyers. Nothing happened.

One could have assumed that we were definitely way out on the fringe if compared to conventional projects. As I look back I am starting to realize that not only were we no where near the fringe, we weren’t even on the same planet. We didn’t clear lots. We only cut roads that were needed to access the few cottage sites we were offering for sale at the time. We planted native prairie grass in the meadow. We created several hundred feet of wood- chipped nature trails. We hoped that our prospective buyers would get to see a bear while looking at cottage sites and not run all the way home to Minneapolis. We actually condominiumized the cottages so that the land around the cottages would be protected through recorded restrictions. We designed a pier system that kept the cottages above the land so the foundations would not alter existing drainage patterns. We voluntarily reduced our allowed densities. We frowned upon turning the forest into a park- like setting. Trees that fell in the forest stay to add nutrients for the next generation. We didn’t even have a sign. Bob once commented to me that, “We are the best secret project in the state”.

We were stuck scratching our heads and wondering what else we could do to make this thing work. It is difficult to walk a prospective buyer onto a heavily wooded cottage site and show them the exact spot where their kitchen sink will be located. Not that we didn’t know where it was to be located, we did; or I did (Bob was still a bit behind the eight ball). It’s just that most people cannot envision a cottage when a cottage isn’t there. Bob asked me what we should do. After considerable thought, I concluded that I didn’t know. While still scratching, and to our surprise, a few very brave buyers started showing up and signing up for cottages. We were finally able to build a microcosm of the proposed project, which made envisioning cottages, and sales, a lot easier.

A few of you bought into this concept early on. Some have just recently come aboard. But you were all obviously attracted to something here, and it wasn’t just our good looks. After all, even though we are developers, we refused to be looked upon as sex symbols. Whatever the attraction – the Lake, the meadow, the wildlife, the creek, the trails, the speed bump – let’s hope that we can preserve it far into the future so that our children and their children will be able to spend time at Brickyard Creek and enjoy the same things we have had the great opportunity to experience.

- Dave Culberson