Ag & Extension Committee looks at ideas for fairgrounds

The Marquette County Ag & Extension Committee met on January 17th, taking a first look at a concept plan that gives an idea of how the county fairgrounds in Westfield could be transformed into a property that would be better used.

First, they were introduced to the new Area 14 Ag & Extension Director, Pat Wagner. Wagner is well known as a resident of the Westfield area, and has worked in Extension positions in Columbia County, where she now serves as the 4-H and Youth Development Educator, as well as previously in Waushara and Marquette Extension positions. She was set to begin her new title January 24th.

Marquette County 4-H and Youth Development Educator Christa Van Treeck reported on a conceptual master plan developed under a grant from the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. She explained that the plan was drawn up by Ayres Planning & Development from a one-day visit to the site, giving their first impressions and concepts for what the site improvements could be.

The County’s goal is to look at ways to not only improve things like drainage and other areas that need repair, but also to make long-term changes that could see the fairgrounds used on a more year-round basis. Currently, little is held there other than the 1-week county fair each July. In winter, buildings are rented for boat storage.

The sketch they developed was described in the January 13th Tribune article in which the County Property Committee was also presented with the same information.

Van Treeck said the evaluators told them, “We think the diamond in the rough is the round barn.” The historic round barn is located at about the center of the property and is used to house some cattle during the fair, although most of that livestock is placed in a newer facility nearby.

Ayres suggested the County consider upgrades to the round barn, allowing it to be a wedding venue, for instance.

Their sketch also showed improved views around the 36-acre property, an amphitheater and stage added, parking moved to behind the buildings, enhanced ballfields, moving the horse arena closer to barns, new bleachers rather than a grandstand, moving the tractor pull course, and an additional restroom, among other ideas.

Van Treeck said they could consider using the property for smaller livestock shows for smaller breeds of animals. A farmers market was also suggested by Ayres in the sketch.

County Administrator Ron Barger explained this is just a conceptual idea of what the property could be. “A lot of technical expertise went into a very quick review of this property,” he told committee members. He suggested they could propose using a small portion of the County’s remaining ARPA money to fix some of the drainage issues on the property now, before further planning gets underway. Other needed fixes include some building repairs and blacktop replacement.

Barger said he would like to see this put into a 5-year plan, investing money into developing the property “to its best advantage, its best use.” He emphasized that the drainage issues need to be addressed now but that this concept plan was an excellent first start. “It gives us something so ideas start turning in our head, of what could be.”

They are awaiting results of another grants that was applied for recently by Buildings and Grounds Director Paul Van Treeck and Tourism and Economic Development Director Keri Solis. Barger said, if awarded, that grant would be “a significant amount” toward the project.