The Friends of Forestville convened at the Spring Valley Public Library last Thursday, April 10, in anticipation of spring at Historic Forestville, looking forward to a busy season at the vintage village located inside Forestville-Mystery Cave State Park.

Reorganization of the Friends was in order during the April meeting in light of longtime vice president David Foster's departure due to other obligations.

Friends and site interpretive staff member Blake Coleman opened the meeting, asking for nominations for vice president, as the president was not able to attend the meeting. Those present unanimously suggested that he take the vice president's role, which he accepted before updating the Friends on the trip to the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) planned for the next day to tour behind the scenes at the state museum.

Coleman reported that the endowment challenge issued by the late Richard DeLeo, a benefactor of Historic Forestville, is "moving along" and has garnered a good response - DeLeo's estate is matching funds for every dollar raised by donors to the site, and the Friends are working to keep the public aware of what the challenge and the endowment can do to help preserve it and southeast Minnesota's history.

The future of Friends of Forestville was up for discussion as Coleman observed that perhaps the Friends might do well to expand the organization's mission beyond promoting and raising funds for the historic site, to "branch out" and encourage other local organizations to cooperate in efforts in and around the site and the state park.

Site manager Sandy Scheevel reported very promising news as she stated that Historic Forestville is second on the Minnesota Historical Society Historic Sites Assets Preservation list for bonding money to preserve structures in a request to the state Legislature.

"Our site has been on the list for quite a while, but we never seem to get to the top," Scheevel explained. "This year, we're second on the list for fiscal year 2015 for preservation dollars for the exterior of our buildings. It's $500,000 for paint, repairs and tuck pointing."

Friends members expressed their incredulity at the amount Scheevel cited, also acknowledging that the sum would make a great difference in how well maintained the site could be if it were chosen as a recipient of bonding funds. Scheevel went on to say, "We'll know a lot more in June after the Legislature will be out. It's not for sure, but I think we will get something."

Fort Snelling is first on the list that totals $6.8 million in asset preservation projects across the state. According to a website ( on bonding requests set up by a Senate committee, appropriations for asset preservation of state historic sites have been in every capital budget bill since 1990. It has received from $1.9 million to $4 million each of the last five years. The top Fort Snelling project - there is another one eighth on the list - is estimated at $1.6 million

Scheevel introduced longtime interpretive staff member Alyssa Wagner as the site's new supervisor, pointing out that new programming has been developed for this and next summer's seasons, that the site now has extended hours and days of operation, and that just in May, the staff will welcome over 1,850 students to tour as part of the school tour program.

Finally, Wagner announced something that made veteran interpretive staff member George Colbenson shudder - the site's beloved but wayward chickens are back and ready to cluck, pick and wander their way into his life once again.