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The City Journals

Ground broken on Wheeler Historic Farm Outdoor Education Center

Feb 26, 2019 02:37PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

A new Outdoor Education Center will soon call Wheeler Farm home. (Photo Courtesy Salt Lake County)

By Shaun Delliskave | s.delliskave@mycityjournals.com

Dirt is flying at Wheeler Historic Farm, and it is not just the fields being plowed. Ground was broken Jan. 30 for a new outdoor education center that will be a joint effort between Salt Lake County and Utah State University Extension. 

“The goal of the Outdoor Education Center is to create avenues for folks to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” said Wheeler Historic Farm curator Sara Roach. “USU Extension is a natural partner for us, as they already have a myriad of programming that is in line with what we hope to provide.” 

The farm, located at 6351 S. 900 East in Murray, will be home to a new 6,315-square-foot facility that will be staffed and operated jointly by Salt Lake County and Utah State University Extension to connect more children and adults to nature and provide increased access to educational opportunities.

“As Salt Lake County continues to become more urbanized, this new Outdoor Education Center will allow people to unplug, learn, and experience the wonder of nature,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. “This is a great addition to the farm, and I am confident this will have a positive impact on thousands of Salt Lake County residents for decades to come.” 

The building will include a teaching space where programming will include: immersive nature walks, learning opportunities about current and historic farming practices, horticulture, livestock management, watershed science, urban forestry, and volunteer opportunities to encourage community involvement. 

“We are thrilled about this partnership and the new building,” said Andreé Walker Bravo, urban director for Utah State University Extension. “The synergy between our organizations will provide greater access to our existing programs and open up many place-based learning opportunities for children and adults alike.” 

Wheeler Historic Farm hosts approximately 450,000 visitors a year, and Utah State University Extension currently hosts hundreds of youth and adults in its agriculture and food education classes at the farm. The new Outdoor Education Center will allow the partnership to greatly expand programs and host thousands more interested participants. 

The $2.6 million project is made possible by Salt Lake County residents through the 2016 Parks and Recreation Bond and through charitable donations. The building has been designed by AJC Architects and is being constructed by Ascent Construction with anticipated completion this fall.

Each summer, Salt Lake County has used the farm for day camps for children. These programs have shared the Activity Barn with other events. “The Activity Barn is rented mainly for receptions and corporate events. The Barn is not a great classroom space, so the new building will fill that need,” noted Roach.

The farm will rent out the Outdoor Education Center when it is not being used for programming. Utah State University has used Wheeler Farm for outreach programs, such as demonstration gardens.

In addition to the new center, visitors will see many new renovations at Wheeler. “For 2019 we are restoring the Wheeler Garage, finishing the Victorian gardens at the Farmhouse and working on pen improvements,” said Roach. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Salt Lake County’s acquisition of the Wheeler Farm property. Restored as a museum farm in 1976, the farm was originally the farmhouse, blacksmith shop and barn. The last major construction took place in the 1990s with the completion of the Activity Barn. The farm has expanded with the creation of South Cottonwood Regional Park.

Construction is expected to be completed by September 2019. More information is found online at slco.org/wheeler-farm.