For years the Village of Weston, a bedroom community outside of Wausau, had engaged in passive sustainability. Taxpayers worked on their own to preserve wetlands and woodlands. The community was on par with the rest of the State of Wisconsin in recycling and sprawl had overtaken good planning when it came to new subdivisions. But as younger families began to move to the community because of its low tax rate, Weston was suddenly faced with developing more of a programmatic approach to the environment.

It began with a local astrologer who felt that Weston should be a dark skies community so taxpayers could enjoy the stars and save energy to boot.


Entrance to biking and hiking trails

A $140 million dollar medical complex became the first major project to meet the no greater than one candlelight at the property line ordinance that has left Weston’s night skies unadulterated. Next, came a renewed emphasis on recycling.

“We had been a compliant curbside recycling community until about 2003 when a few of our staff members took it to a whole other level.  We created a household item drop off site, we began to recycle and reuse asphalt, cement, and black dirt. We ramped up our compost site and we expanded our 24 hour accessible yard waste drop off”, said Village President Fred Schuster.

All told the Village was saving, on average, over $300,000 a year on road projects by recycling materials and selling the compost to local landscapers.  The initiative earned Weston the 2006 Foth & Van Dyke Good Government Award.  Next on the list was storm water.

Weston lies between the Eau Claire River and two headwaters of critical water sheds in southeast Marathon County. In fact, about 30% of the community is wetlands that had to be protected. With the WDNR establishing new suspended solid standards (NR 216), the Village seized the opportunity to educate the community about rain gardens, rain barrels and other on-site methods to control surface water runoff. The Village has several demonstrations projects located in the community and hosts an annual rain barrel workshop using old triple rinsed fifty-five gallon chemical containers. In addition, a community that use to flood regularly, has fixed its drainage problem and is in full compliance with NR 216 ahead of schedule – this spring Weston earned a UWEX Water Star for their efforts.

“We think it is almost poetic justice to convert containers that held potential pollutants to rain barrels”, said Valerie Parker, the Village’s unofficial environmental coordinator.


New bike path along major roadway

The Village was not done yet as it embarked on its biggest sustainability project to date – converting a suburban no sidewalk community into a place where families could walk, jog, and bike. Using a presentation by 1000 Friends of Wisconsin on creating a walkable community, Weston has embarked on a sidewalk and multi-use path campaign that has added over eight miles of paths in the last four years. In 2011, the Village will add a $2 million pedestrian walkway that will connect the south neighborhoods of its community with the schools, shopping and parks in the north over State Highway 29. In 2012, the Village will add 4.8 more miles of multi-use path that will raise the community’s walkability score two-fold in less than five years and reduce the use of automobiles in the community.

You can walk to the store now at night and see the stars without getting your feet wet. Little things do make a big difference.

Written by Village of Weston representatives.

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