Vesterheim is beginning work to transform its Open Air Division into Vesterheim Heritage Park—an educational, interpretative, and public outdoor space in its downtown campus!

Get Heritage Park updates by joining Vesterheim weekly with live stream updates starting on Thursday, July 2, at 12:00 p.m. on Facebook. For those who can’t make the live streams, the videos will be posted later on Vesterheim’s YouTube channel.

The primary contractor for the project is 2nd Nature Landscaping, Bloomington, Minnesota, which has over 30 years of experience ranging from parks and commercial projects to complex residential landscapes. Other contractors involved in this project include Skyline Construction, Inc., Wicks Construction, Perry Novak Electric, and Stevenson Tree Care, all of Decorah.

This project has been made possible by a grant from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies.

Vesterheim has also received funding from Winneshiek County Community Foundation for four interpretive signs. These signs will be similar in structure to the history signs already placed throughout Decorah on the Water Street Trail and the Historic District Trail.

The pathways in Vesterheim Heritage Park will be ADA-accessible and the landscape will incorporate many environmentally sensitive elements, thanks to a grant from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative (WQI) Urban Conservation Project.

The plans for Heritage Park will implement practices including permeable pavement, soil quality restoration, a bioretention cell, and native prairie plantings to transform a currently underutilized landscape with features that improve infiltration, reduce nutrient and sediment runoff, and demonstrate sustainable stormwater management. Large, open glades will provide space for leisure and gathering as well as for outdoor dining, arts education, performances and exhibitions.

The park was designed by Damon Farber, the award-winning landscape architectural firm from Minneapolis, MN, in partnership with Snøhetta, the renowned international architecture and landscape architecture firm with offices in New York City and Oslo. Heritage Park is part of an overall Master Site Plan created for Vesterheim by Snøhetta.

A virtual ground-breaking celebration for Vesterheim Heritage Park is planned for May 29. More information will be announced soon. Work on Heritage Park will continue through this summer and will be completed in the fall. Vesterheim is currently closed  as a response to COVID-19. Further schedule adjustments due to either the Heritage Park work or COVID-19 will be announced when available.

“This project includes historic preservation and interpretation, sustainability and land responsibility, and opportunities to offer space for community engagement,” Vesterheim’s President/CEO Chris Johnson said. “We’ve been so pleased to partner with so many fantastic organizations, and look forward to when Heritage Park can be enjoyed by all.”