Saturday, March 25, 2017

DON'T BURN YOUR BRIDGES BEHIND YOU!

In late October 1975, the La Farge Fire Department notified the Corps of Engineers that there could be no fire protection coverage on the federal dam lands without a written agreement.  The fire department was leery about driving the fire trucks across the old bridges on Highway 131 north of town, since the trucks would exceed the 10-ton weight limits.  Eventually the Corps and the fire department came to a temporary agreement over fire protection coverage and the Wisconsin DOT gave approval to the La Farge fire trucks crossing the bridges as long as a 5-mph speed limit was followed.
Many of the problems with traffic using the old bridges on Highway 131 could have been avoided if the new section of the highway, running from La Farge to Rockton had been opened in mid-October as planned.  The paving of the new section of highway was completed by then and ready for traffic, but disagreements between the Corps of Engineers and the Wisconsin DOT over the ownership of the new section stopped the transferal.  The DOT felt that the new section of highway did not meet state standards nor was adequately or properly completed.  Finally, Jim Ruyak announced from his Corps offices in St. Paul that the new highway would not be transferred to the state as planned nor would the new section be opened to traffic in 1975. 
The new highway project was also stopped when several local governments balked at plans for what to do with the old highway.  Once again, the local school district joined in the controversy.  It was suggested by some that the school buses could avoid crossing the bridges on old Highway 131 by instead using the new route.  But the La Farge School District resisted running their buses on the new road until the DOT had officially taken over that section of the highway.
 The school also wondered about the flood-prone section of the old highway south of Rockton and the condition of the bridges on that section south to Weister Creek.  That section of the old highway was to become part of County Trunk P, but Vernon County had no money for road or bridge improvements on that section of the old state highway.  Several Vernon County board members opposed the county assuming ownership of that section of Highway 131 due to the projected high cost of maintenance and repairs.  
The Town of Stark was supposed to assume ownership of old Highway 131 from the Corps’ dam site south to the La Farge village limits.  But Town of Stark officials rejected assuming ownership of the road due to the poor condition of that portion of the state highway.  That portion of old Highway 131 had damage caused by heavy machinery traffic on the road during the dam construction.
 Finally, the Village of La Farge was to assume ownership of the old highway from the northern village limits (next to the Star Cemetery) south to where the old road joined new Highway 131 on Mill Street near the ballpark.  But that section of the old highway contained the crumbling bridge at Seelyburg that needed massive repairs or replacement entirely.  Since the village had no money for either bridge option, La Farge also rejected taking over that portion of old Highway 131.
So as the winter season approached, the new section of Highway 131 remained closed to traffic (although it was unofficially open to those who chose to use it and many did) and what to do with several sections of the old highway remained in tumult.
With all of the controversy over the bridges around La Farge, there was one positive development when a new bridge was built across the Kickapoo River at the Lawton (Rehbein) farm south of La Farge.  The Highway 131 Bridge was opened for traffic at the end of November, but of course, not before some controversy.
The new bridge was actually the first part of a larger project to renovate and straighten Highway 131 between Tunnelville and La Farge.  The plan called for cutting through the hill known as Elk Point on the Rehbein farm, which would eliminate the old railroad tunnel still at that place.  Besides the historic tunnel, there was also an ancient Native American burial ground located on the top of the hill above the tunnel.  The DOT plan called for the elimination of the tunnel and the removal of the Native American mounds beginning in the summer of 1976.  The project was to be completed by the fall of 1977.  (More on the local efforts to save the old railroad tunnel and burial mounds in a later installment)
On Monday, December 8th, 1975, as early morning drivers headed north from La Farge on Highway 131, they came upon a burning bridge a mile and a half north of Rockton.  One car stayed at the bridge (Bridge #9) to ward off any traffic trying to cross, while another driver went back to Rockton to notify authorities.
When the La Farge Fire Department arrived at 6:30 am, the south end of the bridge was fully engulfed with flames.  The creosote coated wooden pilings under the bridge on that end were already burned off, indicating that the fire had been burning for some time.  Some of the wooden under-planking on the deck was also burned through and the entire southern end of the bridge had collapsed, dropping a foot below the roadway approach.  The fire department was at the scene for two hours pouring water on the burning timbers.  Later that afternoon, the La Farge firemen were called back to the bridge fire scene as several flare-ups of the creosoted timbers were extinguished.
The Vernon County Sheriff’s Department and county highway crews were at the burning bridge scene immediately.  An alternate route needed to be established for traffic.  The lengthy detour routed traffic to County Roads P and F and Highway 33 before returning to Highway 131. 
Vernon County Highway Commissioner Ernie Urban inspected the bridge after the flames were extinguished and declared the burned out bridge unsafe for any traffic.  Barricades were set at each end of the bridge as Urban said it was even unsafe for people to walk across the bridge.  The bridge was also being treated as a crime scene. 
Vernon County Sheriff Geoff Banta said that the burning of the bridge was a deliberate act of vandalism.  Some noted that the bridge had been burned only four days after the U.S. Senate had rejected all funding for the La Farge dam project.  Earlier in the fall, the Wisconsin DOT had inspected the bridge and a 15-ton weight limit had been placed on it.
The week before the bridge burning, another meeting had been held in Madison between the DOT and Corps’ officials about the possibility of opening the new section of Highway 131 between Rockton and La Farge.  Earlier, possibly spurred on by the school bus protest, the DOT had asked that the old section of Highway 131 between Rockton and La Farge be closed due to the old and crumbling bridges along that section of the state highway.  Corps’ officials had seemed ready to open the new section of highway in mid-October, but that plan was thwarted when state, county, village and town officials balked at assuming control of the old highway and its poor bridges.  The early December meeting in Madison had been called to see if those problems could be resolved and the new highway opened.  But in the end, the Corps again said that the new section of highway would not be opened to traffic.
The week before Christmas, Senator William Proxmire made a surprise visit to La Farge.  As he talked to people in an impromptu meeting on the sidewalk in front of the La Farge bank, tempers flared and several people cursed the Senator.  Local anti-dam leader Gale Huston defended Proxmire, but also drew curses and jeers from most of the gathered crowd.  Before quickly leaving, Proxmire, who some in La Farge called “Senator Scrooge” as befit the holiday season, told people to buy flood insurance or move out of the flood plain.
The following week, the Vernon County Highway Department announced that the burned bridge north of Rockton would be rebuilt.  In La Farge, members of the fire department and ambulance squad held a practice on the use of the new Jaws-Of-Life extrication device.  Using some donated junk vehicles the emergency personnel learned how to open up vehicles with the device to get to injured people trapped inside.
As 1975 ended, there did not seem to be much good news in the village of La Farge.  At the last village board meeting of the year, it was noted that the village Christmas tree located at the old firehouse between the bank and post office did not have enough lights to be sufficiently festive.  The board also heard that the brand new Bean Park skating rink leaked.  Bah, Humbug!

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Save the date!  As part of the Driftless Dialogue lecture series at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, I will be talking about this crazy time of the La Farge dam project history on Wednesday, June 21.  “More On That Dam History!” will begin at 7 pm with socializing and refreshments offered one-half hour prior to the program.

BRIDGES & BUSES - 1975

Lately I have been working on volume II of my La Farge history.  I have been reviewing my research of the events that happened during the mid-1970s in this little Kickapoo River town.  It was a crazy time, as the controversy over the La Farge dam project seemed to control everything happening in the village.  One of those strange occurrences in the fall of 1975 put La Farge back in the media bulls-eye once again.  The local protest played out over a couple of weeks and was initiated by the appearance of Senator William Proxmire in the village.
Senator Proxmire spoke to a standing room only crowd at the new La Farge firehouse that Saturday morning, September 5, 1975.  Proxmire announced that he was withdrawing his support of the dam project after being a staunch proponent of the project for years.  The announcement stunned nearly everyone in attendance (including my wife, Carolyn and me) and the discussion after the senator left, was what do we do now?  The pro-dam contingent, a vast majority in the village, wondered what was the next step to take?
That next step occurred on the following Monday evening at a special school board meeting held in the La Farge gym.  One hundred and thirty people were in attendance at the meeting and a petition was read bearing 140 names asking that the school board take appropriate action if the board members felt that area bridges were unsafe for travel by school buses.  A discussion at the meeting brought up that most area bridges recently had weight limits posted on them, some with limits as low as ten tons.  All of the bridges on Highway 131 north of La Farge located in the dam project land had 10-ton limits except for one.  School board president Roger Gabrielson estimated that a full school bus would weigh close to or exceed the 10-ton weight limit.  Gabrielson contended that nine state highway bridges located in the La Farge School District were unsafe for the district’s seven buses.
In a 3-2 vote, the school board decided to close La Farge Schools beginning on the following Thursday due to the weight restricted bridges.  Board members Mac Marshall Jr., David Clift and Marvin Munson voted for the measure, while Gabrielson and Richard Allen voted against it.  Both Gabrielson and Allen voted against the measure because they wanted the school to close the very next day, on Tuesday.
Discussion at the special school board meeting also focused on the fact that there was no money budgeted for repairs or replacements for any of the bridges on Highway 131 north of La Farge.  Those bridges were supposed to be removed when the lake from the dam project was created, but with Senator Proxmire’s withdrawal of support for completion of the dam project, it seemed the bridges would have to remain in use.  Since Governor Patrick Lucey earlier had said that no state funds would be used on the bridge and highway relocations for the La Farge dam project, it could be years before the bridges would be upgraded or replaced.
School board president Gabrielson told the board and attendees that the school would be in contact with the state DOT the next morning about the bridge concerns and the school closing.
Further local protest was in place the next morning as the La Farge school buses crossed the crumbling Highway 82 bridge over the Kickapoo River in La Farge.  On that Tuesday, a dozen protestors, many carrying signs denouncing the conditions of the bridge as well as state and federal politicians, paced warily along the sides of the bridge.  The number of protestors grew during the week and nearly three dozen people picketed on the bridge west of Nuzum’s by week’s end.  A reporter for the LaCrosse Tribune covering the demonstrations took a photograph of Orval Howard standing in one of the holes in the side of the road on the state highway bridge.  In the photo that appeared in the next days’ newspaper, Howard sank over three feet into the hole before his feet found some hanging angle iron beneath the road.  Soon after, the county highway crews placed orange construction barrels over the holes and stretched snow fence along each side of the bridge to keep demonstrators and others away from the holes.
By the end of the week, others who were walking across the bridge over the Kickapoo River in La Farge included school children riding on the buses to and from school.
After the leaders of the La Farge Schools contacted the state DOT about the bridges and scheduled school closing, intense negotiations resulted in a compromise to avoid closing La Farge’s schools.  Representatives from the DOT met with school officials on the afternoon following the special school board meeting.  An inspection was done of the bridge at Nuzum’s (where picketing had begun that morning) and options were discussed.  The next day, the DOT sent a letter to the school with assurances that all the state bridges were safe for school buses to cross.  School bus routes were then altered to avoid crossing the bridges north of La Farge as much as possible, although the new routes took more buses across the Highway 82 Bridge in La Farge.  It was decided by the school leaders that the buses would stop at the bridge approaches and the children would be unloaded.  Then the empty bus with red warning lights flashing would lead the walking students across the bridge.  Once across, the students would return to the bus and the route would continue.  This drastic move of having students walk across the bridges in and around La Farge was continued for several school days reaching into the next week.
During that time, more state bridge inspectors came to La Farge and inspected all nine bridges cited by the school in their report to the Wisconsin DOT.  With new weight restrictions and speed limits placed on the bridges, the La Farge school buses once again began hauling students across the spans instead of having them walk.  The press coverage of the La Farge bridge protest and the students walking across the bridges was massive.  Besides the La Farge area newspapers and radio as well as the LaCrosse newspaper, radio and TV stations, the bridges story merited coverage in the Madison and Milwaukee newspapers, radio and TV stations.  Several Chicago newspapers and one of the Windy City’s TV stations also covered the story of the La Farge bridges and walking students.
La Farge Epitaph editor Lonnie Muller concluded his “WHAT NOW ???” editorial in the September 10th issue by writing, “I support the board 100% even though I figured a Tuesday closing was even better.  The day has come when La Farge can quit taking a back seat to everything in the state.  It’s damn time our side of the story got out to Lucey and his conniving bunch of pigheads in Madison.  We are sick and tired of being the pawns in the chess game of life.  We just checkmated you Lucey and from now on you are playing a losing game with the people of the Kickapoo Valley, if not the entire state.  You figured that you could put us down forever, but it just didn’t work out that way did it?  I think that now, more than ever, the La Farge people are starting to really work together.  I was damn disgusted Saturday when Proxmire made his speech pulling his support from the project, but by Tuesday evening when I write this, I can say that I’m damn proud of these people in this community who are going to fight this together to the finish.  I think a new chapter just started for La Farge, and probably a pretty good one at that.”
In the following week’s Epitaph (9-17-1975), reporter Pete Beckstrand wrote an interesting article on the DOT bridge inspections.  The recent state inspections had found that all of the bridges in the Kickapoo Valley were structurally safe.  However, much of the article provided contrary evidence of the sorry state of most of the bridges around La Farge.  Beckstrand noted that many of the state highway bridges in the La Farge area were “used” bridges – having been originally built at other sites.  He wrote that Bridge 18 (the Bacon Bridge just north of Seelyburg and the dam project site) was originally a span over the Wisconsin River at Spring Green.  After the bad Kickapoo River flood of 1951 damaged the Bacon Bridge, the state highway department hauled an old Spring Green span out of storage and put it across the Kickapoo River as a replacement.  Beckstrand also detailed that there were a total of 92 bridges in Wisconsin that had weight restrictions and 15 of them were located in the northern Kickapoo Valley.  In the article, he quoted Lee Schneider, chief engineer of the DOT’s LaCrosse office, as saying in a phone interview that the La Farge area bridges were in need of “massive maintenance and repair”, and there was no state money budgeted to pay for it.
Within a week after the state bridge inspections, Bridges 16, 17, and 18 on Highway 131 north of La Farge were posted with speed limits and 10-ton weight limits.  The Highway 82 Bridge across Otter Creek west of La Farge was made one-way for traffic.  The Highway 82 Bridge over the Kickapoo River at Nuzum’s was already one-way due to the placement of barrels and snow fence along both sides.

Beckstrand also reported in the article that a La Farge school bus loaded with mostly small children was weighed on the scale at Nuzum’s.  The bus weighed 16,900 pounds and the Episcope reporter wondered if a bus loaded with high school age students might exceed the 10-ton limit placed on most area bridges.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

XMAS WALK - 2016 - Part 2

Switching over to the south side of Main Street here at the Kickapoo River and heading east back uptown, we find the old cheese factory building.  Now owned by CROPP, the factory became a very busy place in 2013 after the fire at the Organic Valley headquarters building.  Besides the regular work of packaging organic cheese products at the site, the upstairs offices at the building were busy with relocated staff.   Temporary offices were once again utilized in the parking lot for employees without a place to work due to the fire, but by 2016 those temporary buildings were gone.
 The Organic Valley Retail Store Outlet located on the west end of the cheese factory remains a very busy store in the village.  The entrance area to the store and the grounds next door were improved during 2015.  In 2016, the cheese packaging line that used the old cheese factory building was moved to a new OV building in Cashton.  Organic Valley may be making plans to enlarge the retail store with the new vacated space.
To the south on Mill Street, M&M Construction, owned by David Mick, operates out of the garage built by the Harris brothers back in 1974-75.  To the south of the construction business stands a large Quonset hut building that used to be located at the Schroeder’s mink ranch north of La Farge, that was bought by the federal government as part of the dam project.  The building was moved to town in the 1970’s and today is a storage building for the village.
If we go all the way to the south end of Mill Street, we come to the newest park in the village, the Riverside Park.  The village developed the park using several properties of former residences in this part of town that were bought out after the 2008 flood.  The park features a walking trail along the river that follows the old railroad track bed.  The trail has interpretive signs along the way telling the history of the village.  A new pier was added to Riverside Park’s spring-fed fishing pond in 2016.  The park also features a 9-hole disc golf course on the property.
On the southeast corner of the busy intersection of Mill and Main Streets is the La Farge Car Wash, owned by Earl Nelson.  Located in the gas station that was last operated by Steve Olson, the car wash has an indoor and outdoor carwash area plus a vacuum for cleaning vehicle interiors.
To the east of the car wash is the former town hall and storage shed of the Town of Stark.  After Stark moved to their new buildings on Corps Road, Earl Nelson purchased the lots and building in 2012 to become part of his La Farge Truck Center operation.  In November 2016, Don Potter Realty moved their offices into the old Stark Town Hall.
 Across the alley are the La Farge Truck Center’s sales offices and garage.  Selling International trucks and operating one of the busiest service departments in western Wisconsin, Nelson employs twenty people in the LTC operation, which is one of the largest employers on La Farge’s Main Street.  He owns the rest of the property along Main Street up to Silver Street.  This includes the old village pump house that is next to the main garage, then the former Fred Major house and the empty corner lot where the Fulmer/Clark’s/school bus garage once stood.
On the second block south on Silver Street, the old fire house, built in 1974, is now used to store village and utility vehicles and equipment.  To the south is another utility building that houses a generator used in emergencies to produce electricity for the village and surrounding areas.  Across the street is the former ambulance garage, which was built with the help of donated work crews by the Amish.  When the ambulance squad moved to the new EMS Building in 2010, La Farge Maintenance purchased the old ambulance squad building.
The Zzip Stop convenience store and gas station sits on the southeast corner of Silver and Main Streets.  Owned by Shane Nottestad, the Zzip Stop is open seven days a week and is the busiest place on Main Street.  This business did an amazing remodel starting in the fall of 2015.  A new canopy and gas pumps announced a change for the La Farge business to a Gulf Station, the first station in Wisconsin for that company after an absence of many years.  In addition, the interior of the Zzip Stop had a complete makeover with the kitchen, seating and display areas being totally reorganized.  A beer cave was added to the beverage sales area and two new checkout stations were installed. 
When the brick building next door to the Zzip Stop (the old post office building) started to fall down in April of 2013, the cascade of bricks spilled over into the convenience store’s parking lot.  Eventually, the building was condemned by the village and then purchased by Shane Nottestad, who tore the crumbling old building down and hauled it away to the landfill in Viroqua.  The empty lot was graveled over and now provides additional parking for the Zzip Stop.
La Farge’s post office is on the corner of the intersection with Bird Street.  Jon Zahm constructed the current post office building in 1991.  The village’s post office was moved from the former site in the old brick hotel annex building next door, just to the west.  Besides an expanded work and office area for handling the mail, the new post office includes a lobby with customer mailboxes, a parking area and a drive-thru mail drop-off lane.
To the south of the post office is the River Valley Motel.  Built in 1972-73 and opened by Dick and Bea Gabrielson as the Lakeland Motel, the business has ten rooms for rent and is often full during hunting and fishing seasons and other peak demand times.  Across Bird Street at the site of the old La Farge Enterprise newspaper building is the small engine repair shop owned and operated by Bob Hysel.
            Moving back up Main Street, we come to the village’s bank.  Owned by the Bosshard family, the bank is now a branch of the Peoples State Bank of Hillsboro. It has eight employees and some of those employees work at the bank in Readstown, formerly a branch of the bank in La Farge. The cement block bank building on the corner has served as a bank for the village since the 1920’s.
There is only one tavern or bar on La Farge’s Main Street now.  Phil & Deb’s Town Tap, located in the old Opera House building next to the bank, claims the distinction as the only bar in La Farge where you can wet your whistle. (Although off-sale beer and liquor purchases are still available at the Zzip Stop and Bergum’s Food Mart and beer and wine may be enjoyed with your meal at Sisters Place.)  That’s rather hard to believe of a town where twenty years earlier three drinking establishments were open on Main Street.  Twenty years before that La Farge had a “Black List” with two-dozen names.  People on that list were banned from drinking in any of La Farge’s bars and had to use their wiles to find other ways to get their whiskey and wine.  The Town Tap also operates a full service kitchen with daily lunch specials, homemade pizzas and evening dinner specials.
Next door to the Town Tap was Dawn Nemec’s Country View Embroidery Shop. It was a new business in La Farge, started in 2013 that specialized in custom embroidered clothes of all kinds and other promotional materials.  But the business was closed down in 2015 and in April 2016 the store was renovated into a beauty parlor that is operated by JoLynn Skrede.  This newest business on La Farge’s Main Street is known as Jo’s Salon.
The Sister’s Place Restaurant is the next business on this block.  The business is owned by sisters Deb Nelson and Kris Walker, who also work together at the bank, and the restaurant operates seven days a week except for the winter season when it is closed on Sundays.
To the west in the old drug store business space is HTC Realty By Design, which moved to this location in the summer of 2013.  The realty office, operated by Kathy Appleman, was formally located in the brick building next to the Zzip Stop.  But when that building began to collapse in the spring of the year, the realty offices were moved into new offices at this location.
The Kreigh Art Ceramics display room occupies the next storefront.  From a working studio in the back of the building, Kyle Kreigh is constantly creating new ceramic products for sale that are always on display in the front room.
To the east of the ceramics showroom are the offices of the Village of La Farge and La Farge Utilities.  Village Clerk Kim Walker and Utilities Secretary Virginia Bilek are usually working at the office every weekday.
On the east corner of this block is the La Farge Hardware Store owned and operated by Doug Clark.  The corner building is the oldest store in La Farge, originally constructed by Charles DeJean in 1875 for use as a general store.  Located on the busy intersection of State Street (State Highway 131 coming from Viola) and Main Street, this building has housed some type of business continuously in the village for over 135 years.  Clark has operated the well-stocked hardware store since 2004.  Down the block to the south on State Street is the old locker plant building located on the alley, now used for storage.  Further down the block the old KP Hall that sits on the corner is now a second location for Jake Sell’s sprawling resale business. 
Across Snow Street is the old La Farge Medical and Dental Clinic building.  The VMH Medical Clinic left this site in June of 2015 and relocated to the new clinic on Mill Street.  However, the dental practice of Dr. Rose Wels remained in the building.  Dr. Wels has practiced dentistry here in La Farge for thirty years, beginning her practice in 1986.  With the medical clinic part of the building empty, the village began to seek tenants for the space.  In the fall of 2015, Carl Peterson started a chiropractic and nutrition practice in the west end of the old clinic building.  Originally only open on a limited schedule, Peterson’s business proved to be very successful and expanded hours were begun in the spring of 2016.
Coming back north on the east side of State Street, we have the law office of Phil Stittleburg.  With his practice at the site since 1972, Stittleburg is the third lawyer to work out of the building (following John Drew and Ralph Freeze), which has housed a law office continuously since 1899.  Across the alley to the north is the old shoe store, which is now owned by Stittleburg and used for storage.  A large pine tree in the yard north of the old shoe store still serves proudly as the village’s Christmas tree.
            Continuing north, on the southwest corner of the intersection is the site of the old Mobil gas station.  The building and lot sat empty for all of 2013 after previously being the home of Countryside Motors, where used cars were once sold.  After a brief time as a welding shop and later serving as a base for a food cart in 2014-15, the old gas station lot, on a great corner where two state highways cross, now hosts junk cars and trucks.
The massive C&S Motors Garage building sits in the middle of this block.  It was the home of C&S Motors & Sports Shop.  LaVerne Campbell usually opened up his sports shop in the garage’s office space on most days, but by 2015 his failing health didn’t allow that to happen any more.  The automotive repair and service work in the garage done by Mark Campbell had ceased operating earlier in 2013.
On the southeast corner of the intersection of Maple and Main was Irv Gudgeon’s Woodworking Shop.  Housed in the old building that had originally been a blacksmith shop and then a longtime gas station, Irv built picnic tables, outhouses and doghouses in his shop.  As he had done for many previous Decembers, in 2013 Irv sold Christmas trees (grown on the Matthes Tree Farm outside of Viola) displayed in the front of his shop where the gas pumps used to be.  But age forced Irv to give up his business in 2014.  (Did anybody sell Christmas trees in La Farge this year?)
Moving far up Main Street to the east end of town, we see the new Free Methodist Church, located one block south on Cherry Street.  The church is the busiest in town with regular church services, weddings and funerals.  A large dining room with kitchen located adjacent to the church sanctuary provides a wonderful space for meals.   This beautiful new facility was dedicated in January 2004 and under the leadership of Pastor Mark Phillips the congregation has grown steadily since.  The church has taken a very active stance in the community and houses the village’s Food Pantry, with distributions made in the building each month.  The church maintains a historical connection to the old Free Methodist Church located on Main Street a block away (now the home of Traci & Doug Albright as well as the center for Doug’s electric & solar business) as the bell from that old church is preserved and displayed on the front lawn of the new church.
Across the alley from the new church is the Superlative Skateboard Park.  Located on a former residence site along Main Street, the park, which was developed through the leadership of Mark Phillips and others in the village, features several cement ramps and chutes for skateboarders to test their skills.  The skateboard park was dedicated in 2009 and was made possible through a grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation.
 The new firehouse or ESB (Emergency Services Building), which houses the fire trucks, ambulances, and village police car is located across Cherry Street, to the west of the Free Methodist Church.  It was opened in 2010 as a replacement for the old firehouse and the ambulance garage and came about through the procurement of a federal grant after the flood of 2008.  The building is dedicated to the fire and EMS volunteers, past, present and future, who make such a difference in our community of La Farge.  Village President Steve Donovan, who led the effort to raise funds and apply for grants to complete the new building and move the fire department and ambulance squad out of the floodway, made the dedication at the building’s grand opening in September 2010.  The new ESB also provides meeting space for village board meetings, elections and other municipal events.
So, for now, that concludes our stroll along Main Street in La Farge.  My legs are a little sore from the hike, as I don’t get out as much as I used to.