by Dan Colton
for The Beacon
Community and business leaders gathered July 29 at the Sheboygan County Broughton Marsh to celebrate the breaking of ground for a new education and community center.
Led by the Friends of the Broughton Sheboygan Marsh, the $2.3 million effort to construct the multipurpose facility is aimed at fostering conservationism through education. Several public officials and corporate figures addressed a crowd of about 30 people.
The building is expected to be completed next spring and will include seating for 90 students, a meeting room, atrium, camp showers, an educational garden, kitchen and office space. It will be a significant upgrade from the marsh’s current learning center – an old trailer.
Sarah Dezwarte, director of education at the YMCA Camp Y-Koda, teaches middle school children at the marsh. She said the two-day program brings kids out to experience canoeing and includes a classroom portion.
But the current classroom in the trailer doesn’t offer enough room, Dezwarte said, and doesn’t comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
“(The new building) will be a place where all kids are successful,” she said.
The facility will also be Sheboygan County’s first structure to receive a platinum certification of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an award given out by the U.S. Green Buildings Council.
Lil Pipping, chairwoman of the Friends of the Broughton Sheboygan Marsh, kicked off the speeches. She said the project gained momentum in 2011 when a citizen donated $25,000 to get the wheels rolling. Sheboygan County then approved the project in 2013, and fundraising got underway.
By 2014, the Friends were ready to hire a contractor. Steven Schmitt from Jos. Schmitt Construction was chosen after previously building the nearby observation tower.
“I’m proud to be serving (on the project),” he said.
Laura Kohler, senior vice president of human resources, stewardship and sustainability at the Kohler Company, also supplied comments. The Kohler Company was a major donator to the education center project, and thus received naming rights.
Kohler said her father, Herb Kohler, was an avid lover of the outdoors. Establishing an education center that bears the family name is an honor to his legacy, she said.
“We are so proud to support the Friends of the Sheboygan Marsh,” Kohler said. “…It’s a tremendous achievement to come together and make this happen.”
Lou Gentine, on behalf of the Sargento Foods Inc., said the company obtained naming rights for the education center’s kitchen.
“We’re excited to be a part of it … and looking forward to when we can be here for the door opening.”
The audience was also addressed by Sheboygan County Administrator Adam Payne. He lauded the marsh for its environmental importance and its offerings as a recreational destination, saying generations of explorers have enjoyed fishing, paddling and enjoying the marsh’s waters and ecosystems.
“Our community needs good news, and today is definitely a good day,” he said.