In Waunakee, the summer of 2019 will be one for history books.
It will be remembered as the summer when, despite delays and hiccups along the way, two long-awaited community projects finally were completed.
Sunday, Schumacher Farm Park opened the doors of its Center for Rural History at what has been known as the Red Barn for many years. It took two capital campaigns, one halted during the Great Recession, to fund the project, along with a generous $400,000 contribution from Dane County at the county park.
The Center will help achieve the farm park’s goal – to educate young people about farm life in the 1920s and 1930s, when Marcella Schumacher Pendall’s family farmed there. That was, after all, her vision for her family farm when she donated it to Dane County for a living history museum in 1978.
With accessible space and bathrooms, the farm park can now host school and youth groups year-round. Artifacts can be exhibited there, as well, to showcase the area’s history. And it will provide a meeting and reception area for community members.
In just two short weeks, the Waunakee Public Library will also open its doors to the public. It is also the culmination of nearly 15 years of planning and discussions on how to replace a public facility that the village had outgrown. With one wing for the book collection and the other for community space to study, collaborate and research, it looks to be another jewel in the village. Located beside Six Mile Creek, the outdoor area will also ffer a scenic place to read and contemplate.
Both these projects faced setbacks. The Great Recession put both on hold as donors and local government faced financial constraints.
At Schumacher Farm, the original barn donated for the Center for Rural History was destroyed in a wind storm at the end of 2004 and had to be rebuilt afterwards.
The library location, at the former Waunakee Alloy property, presented a number of challenges, both in the acquisition and in the clean-up of a toxic combination of mercury and PCBs.
Both projects required persistence, dedication and creative thinking to see through.
Dane County proved to be a helpful partner in both cases. As for Schumacher Farm, County Executive Joe Parisi had initially budgeted $200,000 but added another $200,000 for the project.
At the Waunakee Alloy site, the Dane County Treasurer notified the village that the former owners had neglected to pay five years of taxes, allowing the village to pay the amount in arrears and take ownership.
But it took a village for both projects to be realized.
Countless community members contributed to both financially and with their time and talent, serving on committees, boards and Friends groups. They all deserve our admiration and gratitude. While we celebrate the opening of these new public facilities this summer, we should also applaud their efforts to see these public projects – places for future generations to enjoy and learn – through to fruition.