Scheidegger is the founder of the Discover the Delta Foundation, a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and celebrating the Delta’s 1,000 miles of inland waterways.
“There is so much about the Delta that people don’t know,” said Scheidegger. “People seem to focus on the water and its problems, but there are also the people, the farmers, the wine makers and the rich history that needs to be shared. My dream is to do something that isn’t and hasn’t been done before: I want to tell the Delta’s story.”
And the story’s called the Discover the Delta Information Center, a two-story, 7,700-square-foot facility featuring education, interpretive, computer and information centers, as well as outdoor picnic and gathering areas. Meeting facilities and student research areas are also on the boards, as is a privately owned farmers’ market, plus twin wind towers designed to illustrate one of the area’s greatest energy sources: the Delta breezes.
“What this (Delta Center) is going to do is give people who come out here an opportunity to see the wheres and whys of the area,” said Scheidegger. “To get a sense of the Delta and to come and get involved. Did you know that there are over 90 agricultural products grown here in the Delta? I sometimes think people think it’s only corn that grows out here.”
Scheidegger, a former marine biologist and retired local business owner, created the foundation two years ago as a way to dredge up support for the area where he grew up and continues to live. The information center was born of his increasing interest in sharing the Delta’s varied history with others, a history that includes the contributions of the Chinese, Native Americans and local farmers. Scheidegger’s own grandparents worked agricultural land out on Sherman Island, and his father too was a local farmer.
“My parents and grandparents – that part of the story is in me,” he said. “But I want other people to come out here and experience something special too. I want them to come out and look for their history and in the process find the Delta.”
The Discover the Delta Information Center will be located at the crossroads of highways 12 and 160 east of Rio Vista, one of the busiest intersections in the Delta. Informational signs welcoming visitors to the Delta area already going up at more than 20 locations throughout the Delta. The signs were paid for with donations by agencies throughout the five-county Delta region, including the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.
Scheidegger said he hopes to get the facility up and running within the next couple of years if funding, grants and private support continue. He figures the foundation needs an additional $1 million or more to complete the project. The farmers’ market and wind towers are expected to be open by the spring of this year, followed by the information center.
“It’s not a matter of ‘if’ anymore; now it’s a matter of ‘when,’” said Scheidegger. “You know, when I get tired, I remember something that recently happened to me. A local resident saw one of our employees out on a levee road and told him that he had heard I was getting tired and discouraged. This person told our guy that he would give me whatever I needed to eat or drink or whatever to keep me going. ‘He just needs to stick with it,’ this gentleman told him. For me, when I hear things like that, I see that people out here want the Delta’s story to be told. They believe in what we are doing, and it recharges my batteries; it keeps me going.”
For more on the Discover the Delta Information Center, call 916-777-4442 or visit www.discoverthedelta.com.