Norskedalen, which means the Norwegian Valley, began in 1977 as an outdoor laboratory and arboretum when Dr. Alf Gundersen and his wife Carroll donated the 112 acre Gundersen farm, to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Foundation. They established an arboretum in memory of Alf’s mother, Helga Isaksaetre Gundersen.
Since then, Norskedalen has grown to include over 400 acres of wooded coulee, goat prairie, springs, creek and fields, crossed by miles of nature trails. Acquisition of the adjoining properties as well as the Skumsrud Thrune home farm was made possible by bequests from the Wehrer Trust, the Paul E. Stry Foundation, Inc. and the Thrune families.
The Thrune Visitors’ Center was constructed in 1982 in memory of Richard Thrune by his wife Ethel, with a major expansion and of the center completed in 1991. The Paul E. Stry Foundation, Inc. made funding for this renovation possible.
The Bekkum Homestead features the original log buildings built by Norwegian immigrants to the region. The homestead consists of the Engum house, summer kitchen, the Volden stone springhouse, Bakke corn crib, granary, chicken coop, Moilien machine shed, Gundersen-Running tobacco barn, Bekkum barn, cow barn, blacksmith shop and storage shed. All the buildings are arranged in a Norwegian traditional horseshoe-shaped ‘tun’ or farmstead.
The buildings were moved from local farms beginning in 1982 when the Bakke corn crib was a float in the Westby Syttende Mai parade, and just kept on going until it landed at Norskedalen. Funding for the establishment of this pioneer log homestead was donated by Owen and Dorothy Bekkum.
Norskedalen’s facilities include the Shelter House, which is available for weddings, reunions, company picnics and other gatherings by reservation.
To preserve and interpret the natural environment and cultural heritage of the region, to make people aware of and sensitive to these resources and to provide educational opportunities at all levels through its arboretum, nature and heritage centers, and staff-both volunteer and professional.
In every decision and action at Norskedalen, we strive for:
- Integrity (honesty, trust, accountability)
- Quality (authenticity, professionalism, empowerment, excellence of product and experience)
- Shared Ownership (teamwork, collaboration, commitment, ‘can-do’)
- Open Communication (transparency, discussion, consensus, harmony)
- Adaptability (change, forward looking)
- Respect (courtesy, dignity, support, customer service, compassion)
- Enjoyment (fun, motivation, positive environment, inspiration)