The town of Windham celebrated its history, it's people, and some aging structures needing a boost. Here's a look back at some top stories of 2019.
Students stage walkout
In March, students at Windham High School made a big statement about how they felt about their teachers.
Students staged a protest walkout, citing the recent resignation of a popular athletic director and other teachers not returning to the school next year. Students got up and left the building and returned back inside about 20 minutes later.
The protest idea got its start when information circulated about several high school teachers not having contracts renewed for next year. That included former Windham head football coach and athletic director Bill Raycraft who resigned from both positions.
“I want to be the best I can be at my job,” Raycraft said in a press release. “And, going forward, I felt it was getting harder to do that with the time this profession takes. I love my position, the students, fellow coaches, teachers, boosters and parents, but at some point I have to look at what is best for all of us.”
Raycraft served as football coach and athletic director for Windham since the school opened in 2009.
Town Common a priority
Efforts continued in town to help improve and beautify the community's common.
The Windham Town Common Beautification Committee continued work in 2019 to help bring a plan to fruition. The Windham Board of Selectmen established the committee in 2015 to look at ways to improve parts of the common area in town.
The overall project includes improving areas near the historic Town Hall, the Armstrong Building, Community Development Building, town pound, Veterans Memorial and the grassy common area behind the senior center and Bartley building. Sidewalks, LED light poles, trees, gardens, and updated parking areas are also part of the plan.
Committee co-chairman Peter Griffin said earlier this year the project also includes the construction of a new cast iron aluminum bridge over Collins Brook that will replace the current structure that is aging and not handicapped accessible.
A fundraising campaign, the Bridge to Beautification, is underway to support this phase of the overall plan.
Moeckel Pond and its dam
Another historic spot in town got a lot of attention in 2019.
The historic dam at Moeckel Pond will be upgraded, named the Marston-Finn Conservation Dam.
Community members, town officials, and other supporters of the pond gathered this past summer for an official ground-breaking ceremony to officially start the construction of the dam off Moeckel Road.
It’s been nearly a decade in the making to get to this point, according to Dianna Fallon, head of the Friends of Moeckel Pond, a core group of five who took on the project with the help of many in town to bring the dam and its waters back to a thriving state.
Moeckel Pond and its dam have a rich history in Windham.
But through the generations, things changed, families changed, and the Moeckel Pond legacy was changing.
In 2002, the state’s Department of Environmental Services issued a letter of deficiency to the property owners, saying the dam did not meet the state’s standards and, if it failed, it could affect properties downstream. The state eventually ordered the dam to be breached in 2010 and the pond water drained.
People in town started rallying to try and find ways to save the dam and the pond. The Friends of Moeckel Pond got its start and the town’s conservation officials got involved.
Fundraising efforts also got a swift start. The privately-owned pond property was eventually donated to the Friends of Moeckel Pond, and eventually sold to the Conservation Commission for $150,000.
Groups in town got involved to help raise more money including the nonprofit Windham Endowment for Community Advancement that made Moeckel Pond and its dam a major focus.
The town also established the creation of a Moeckel Pond Village District, an organization made up of local homeowners to help take over responsibility of the dam once the work is complete.