Beyond the Midway History
Beyond the Midway at Wilson County Fairgrounds Offers Education and Enjoyment for All Ages, Year Round
Like all good stories, the Beyond the Midway project at the Fairgrounds has had its share of heroes and heroines. The story stretches over years of visions, of possibility, nurturing of allegiances, small steps and great leaps forward. Key players have come and gone and a few have returned to provide guidance, expertise and sweat equity.
And, like any good story Beyond the Midway begins with…
Once Upon A Time….
There was a department in the federal government that began to develop guidelines and regulations that state and local government would follow to manage storm water run offs. The changes that led to the Fairgrounds project had their beginnings in 2003.
Recognizing the harmful impacts of rushing unmanaged storm water, the Environmental Protection Agency began requiring state and local governments to educate the public about ways to reduce or eliminate pollution and mitigate flooding to protect the nation’s streams, rivers and lakes from rushing waters off cities, factories and other paved and covered surfaces that carried pollution and sediment from erosion. There were concerns that the “natural sponges” of the earth, wetlands, were being drained, paved over and disturbed with man-made developments. There was growing concern about other less obvious pollution such as oils, garbage, fertilizers and farm waste swept into the aquifers along with the rain waters.
Education became a priority for the new “stormwater” programs.
While many cities and counties took actions separately, officials from Wilson County, Lebanon and Mt. Juliet began to work together, pooling their resources to develop cooperative efforts to implement the EPA requirements and to develop a common philosophy and set of guidelines. The result was the Wilson County Water Group (WCW).
The new clean water guidelines spawned rapid development in the private sector of new technologies that could help manage stormwater. It brought back old tried and true techniques that had been forgotten. One of the first initiatives of the newly formed WCW was to host information seminars, trade show demonstrations targeting contractors, engineers and developers to learn alongside city and county officials.
It became clear that classroom learning was one thing, but seeing the technologies demonstrated on the ground was a vital part of the learning process. The WCW focused on experiential learning and needed a learning lab. The lab needed to be accessible year-round to professionals and the public to be able to explore/experience the demonstration areas on their own time. The lab needed to be diverse enough to include an unlimited number of technologies. The lab needed to offer spaces for classroom learning to easily adjourn to go walk the grounds and see the demonstration areas. Wilson County had just the place – The Fairgrounds at James E. Ward Agricultural Center.
The first demonstration became a Low Impact Design/Development (LID) area. You are looking at those first features from this spot on the trail.
At the time, it was called a “Green Infrastructure.” It was an area of porous concrete sidewalk that formed a walkway in the Fiddlers Grove. Soon after, a Rain Garden was installed nearby to manage a ponding area within the Fiddlers Grove. And to round out the small area, one Fiddlers Grove historical building was outfitted with Rain Barrels to harvest water for garden areas while also reducing flooding of the building. Another received “armored grass” to fix a muddy driveway.
Since 2006, thousands of people have attended regular demonstration seminars. The facility has hosted environmental fairs, construction demonstrations, state sponsored certifications and the “Think Green – Think Clean” Clean Up and Recycle Fair with over 1,000 students picking up more than 10.5 tons of trash in 2012 alone.
New partners have joined with the WCW to add expertise and funds and hard work for expanded demonstrations. These have included area colleges and universities, non-governmental associations, as well as Tennessee state and federal agencies.
Private partnerships have developed with gardening clubs, nurseries, soil experts, contractors, paving and concrete companies and trade associations. It’s all to view and enjoy – Beyond the Midway.