It’s a New Day in Day County

Posted on January 25, 2019

Carey Grosdidier
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Imagine making a “wish list” for your rural community and then turning those wishes into reality.

That’s exactly what the residents of Day County have been doing. What started as a three-day community visioning workshop hosted by DesignSD in 2014 has turned into community Vision Teams working diligently to make positive changes happen. 

“DesignSD gave us the opportunity to talk about what we would like see in Webster and other Day County communities in a year, five years and twenty years down the road,” explains Melissa Waldner, Executive Director of the Webster Area Development Corporation. “We had small ideas and really grand ideas and the 100 or so people attending helped create the vision boards that continue to drive us forward.”

Five years later, the impressive list of accomplishments includes:

*The creation of a new Webster Area Technical and Career Education Center, which opened in August 2017. Here, curriculum for high school students meets the needs of area employers, such as welding, architecture, carpentry and career exploration. Unique partnerships and hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money was utilized to help renovate a former Vocational Education Center into the new Lake Region Business Center,  which provides career and technical education classroom and shop space, a community conference center and office spaces. Approximately 180 students are enrolled in classes.

A Housing Opportunity Listing was established by the Housing Vision Team to provide a “one-stop shop” for housing in Day County. The group provides frequent updates to the listings of all homes available for sale, including For Sale By Owner properties. The group has painted several homes through the Paint SD program, coordinated Housing Block Parties and facilitated conversations about housing development in the area.

A Crafter’s Boutique will open this spring, featuring a physical storefront where artists and vendors can rent booths and sell products as a co-op. One of the organizers of this group is seventh grader Chayse Shoemaker, a talented and motivated local crafter.

A Recycling team of 26 people is working to make recycling available and convenient to Day County area residents, and has had the help of school kids involved in the Destination Imagination program.

A walking/biking path effort in Webster is underway to connect the pool, park, baseball complex, soccer complex and school together, with long-term visions of connecting to other towns in Day County. The team hopes to start construction of Phase A in 2019 which will connect the healthcare complex to Main Street.  

“Through all of this, I have worked very closely with Joe Bartmann and Paula Jensen at Dakota Resources, looking to them for guidance and resources,” says Melissa. “The outside perspective is extremely valuable. Every so often, we have ‘Marathon Coaching Days’ where each Vision Team gets one hour with Joe or Paula to work through issues or just to fire them up. This, along with my connections in the Learning Network, really help keep us focused, inspired and engaged.”

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