Wausau school forest improvements pushed off

Published: May. 24, 2021 at 7:16 PM CDT
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MOSINEE, Wis. (WSAW) - Improvements to the Wausau School Forest are being put off and will take longer than expected.

That’s because of a lack of funding from a failed referendum. The Wausau School District was hoping to get nearly $4 million from the referendum to replace a building there. But now they’re focusing on smaller and more affordable improvements.

Going to the Wausau School Forest is a rite of passage for Wausau students since 1942, but there hasn’t been any major upgrades to it in about 40 years and replacing the red lodge is the main issue.

“The existing lodge was originally brought here literally on skids and sits on cement blocks so it’s not really a building that you would normally host kids in,” Wausau School Forest Director of Buildings and Grounds Larry Cihlar said.

The red lodge facilitates the main classrooms at the forest, while it’s served its purpose, the building is problematic-- it’s small, has poor insulation, and doesn’t serve modern educational needs.

“We’ve kind of got(ten) by with what we’ve had and you know it’s getting to be that point in time where we want to try to get some things here for the kids, it is one of the most utilized facilities in our school district,” Wausau School Forest Environmental Education Coordinator Chris Nelson said.

Had the nearly $4 million dollar referendum passed in April, the old red lodge would be nothing but a memory.

“After the referendum failed it’s basically kind of back to the drawing board trying to figure out that we can bring this to fruition,” Nelson said.

Now the district is working on infrastructure upgrades while the new lodge sits on the back burner.

In the fall of 2020, a new electrical system was installed and a back-up generator is on the way.

They’re also working on upgrades such as gas, storage space and fiber for internet.

“Having a facility that is much nicer and more conducive to learning than this would certainly be a benefit and then we could expand our curriculum out here and expand the opportunities for kids to experience this,” Cihlar said.

The district also partnered with Federal Fish and Wildlife, Wis. Corp, and the DNR.

Together, they’ll bring upgrades and maintenance to the outdoors such as native grass restoration and a new bridge to enhance student experience.

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