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15 Stories for 15 Years! Story #15...

We’re featuring 15 stories for our 15th anniversary! 2021 is the Great River Road Visitor & Learning Center's 15th year at Freedom Park. To celebrate, we will share 15 stories that highlight important moments in our history, remarkable people we've met along the way, lessons learned, milestones reached, and how Friends of Freedom Park and the surrounding communities have supported each other over the years.

Story #15: In 2006, the doors of the Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center opened. It had taken five years of planning and fundraising to bring the project to fruition.

In 2001, the City of Prescott, WI had applied for a National Scenic Byways Discretionary Grant to develop a "Great River Road Scenic Byway Learning Center." Over the course of three years, the city was awarded $1.7 million for planning, development, and construction of a center. Freedom Park, with its panoramic view of the confluence of the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers, was chosen as the building site.

The City involved residents from the very beginning of the planning process and those who later formed the Friends of Freedom Park were involved in each stage of development. Schmeeckle Reserve Interpreters of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was hired to write an interpretive plan for the Center. Cedar Corporation of Menomonee, Wisconsin, won the contract to build the facility, landscape the park, and construct new recreational and outdoor learning facilities called for in the interpretive plan. Split Rock Studios, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, was hired to complete the interpretive exhibits housed in the center.

The Friends of Freedom Park with the help of the Prescott Foundation pledged to raise $440,000 to meet the balance of the $2.2 million construction costs.

In 2006, the Friends of Freedom Park incorporated as a nonprofit. Since that time it has raised its own operational expenses in order to staff the visitor center and provide programming free of charge to residents and visitors. Over 184,000 visitors from every state and more than 53 countries have entered the building since 2006 to learn about the unique beauty and history of this special place.

Although the visitor center still impresses visitors, the building is aging and the exhibits are nearly at the end of their life cycle. As a result, the Friends of Freedom Park have begun planning for a building refresh that will make the facility more welcoming, inclusive, family-friendly, multifunctional, and engaging. We want the building to be a place where people return again and again to connect, share stories, learn, laugh, take selfies, and post check-ins. We want our building to foster a sense of belonging, inspire the next generation, create community, and grow partnerships. Your support will help us continue to provide engaging local experiences that merge nature, culture, and community at the confluence of two great rivers. Donate today!

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