With Madison at its core, Dane County is the fastest growing county in Wisconsin. But that growth is spreading to surrounding communities as well, like the Village of Mazomanie. Halfway between Middleton and Spring Green along Hwy. 14, Mazomanie straddles the line between Dane and Iowa counties and helps bridge the gap between urban and rural life. It feels like small-town living, but you're just 20 minutes away from everything.
Part of this growth is due to larger businesses taking root here, such as Wick Buildings and Roundy's Distribution Center. Between 2000-2013, Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC), Plastic Ingenuity, and Cardinal Coated Glass also moved into large facilities in town that have attracted numerous employees. In turn, there has been a demand for more workforce housing.
Village of Mazomanie administrator Peter Huebner said this expansion is part of what prompted the village and chamber to develop an economic positioning strategy in 2016. Huebner is also on the implementation committee for this "Mazo 2020" plan, which continues to guide infrastructure projects and shape its "Live Outside" brand.
"We are a caring and supportive community with an emphasis on the outdoors, a variety of people, and a great (Wisconsin Heights) school district," Huebner said.
As with many communities surrounding Madison, almost as soon as homes hit the market in Mazomanie they are "snatched up," Huebner said. There are about a dozen new homes being built so far this year, but he said there is a need for affordable and senior housing.
Huebner said he has also seen people show more "pride" in the village and in their properties, and he is very excited for what the Mazo 2020 plan can do for Mazomanie.
One of the biggest challenges for the village is exposure, because the beautiful and historic downtown is not visible from the main highway. Huebner said Hwy. 14 will be redone in 2021 and stoplights will be added at Brodhead Street, which goes over a hill and into the heart of the community on the village's east side. This will also make crossing easier and safer for families.
Since any road signage would need to be removed for that project, for now the village will add banners with the new logo and slogan to street posts, essentially creating an "arrow to downtown" that will be lit up for the winter holidays.
While Mazomanie does not have a dedicated grocery store, its Dollar General store and Shell gas station carry the essential items, otherwise it's a short drive to Cross Plains. The idea of building a grocery store comes up often, but Huebner does not think the village is ready to sustain one quite yet.
Restaurants have been flourishing, Huebner said, and the village is still trying to attract more businesses to make the downtown "more vibrant and viable." This summer, the village will be tackling streetscape projects downtown, including adding planters and more shade.
There is also a huge opportunity for Mazomanie to position itself as an outdoor recreation hub for the Driftless Area and Lower Wisconsin River Valley, especially in regards to biking, fishing, paddlesports, hunting, and horseback riding. And come September, Lake Marion is expected to be filled with water again.
With the addition of the Wolf Run Trail and other trail systems that may expand to nearby communities, businesses that cater to bicyclists could be a huge draw. A trailhead and parking lot will be constructed near the promenade for the Lake Marion and Wolf Run trails, which is expected to be completed by August 1 in time for the Gandy Dancer Festival.
This bluegrass festival (August 18, 2018), draws musicians from all over the country and is one of the village's largest events of the year. Other popular events include Fourth of July festivities, the Mazo Motion Car and Bike Show (July 21, 2018), River Rumble Tractor Pull (July 27, 2018), and Wild West Days (September 7-9, 2018).
The Black Earth Creek, a Class I trout stream, is also a great spot for fishing and kayaking. And with the rolling terrain, expanding the winter trail system for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing would be a smart idea. The village is close to Devil's Lake and Governor Dodge state parks, where rock climbing and hiking are popular. There may also be new camping and picnicking facilities at Walking Iron Park, a 320-acre Dane County Park near Lion's Park, where the swimming pool, splash pad, playgrounds, basketball and sand volleyball courts, softball, baseball, and soccer fields are located.