Wilton residents close to the finish line on decades-long effort for community center

A landscaping plan will be developed to deal with the dirt outside Wilton Community Center, said Amber Veselka of Sacramento County Regional Parks
A landscaping plan will be developed to deal with the dirt outside Wilton Community Center, said Amber Veselka of Sacramento County Regional Parks egarrison@sacbee.com

Community groups in rural Wilton now have their own place to meet, decades after residents made getting a community center their top priority.

Located near the center of the Wilton area in southeast Sacramento County, C.W. Dillard Elementary School’s multipurpose building is being transformed into Wilton Community Center. The missing piece is restrooms, other than a port-a-potty, and like all other aspects of the long-running project, the issue is funding.

On Wednesday, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve funding to help pay for the $168,000 project to build a separate restroom building behind the center.

“Community members have also said when we have the funds ... ‘we’ll come help build,’ so we don’t have to pay so many people to work, to save money and get it done,” said Lorraine Robinson, a longtime Wilton resident who is part of the effort behind the center.

Inside, the center has two basketball hoops with a court made of linoleum tiles and a small prep kitchen. A nonprofit created to raise money for the center is collecting donations for tables and chairs. In August, a group of about 30 volunteers came out to replace ceiling tiles and lights and weed the area around the building.

A group rented the room for the first time last month, and the center is taking reservations. Proceeds go toward the nonprofit to pay for maintenance.

Wilton’s desire for a community center dates back to the early 1990s, when residents said in a survey that it was their top interest.

The CSA 4B Council advises the Sacramento County Parks and Recreation Department on issues in the Wilton, Rancho Murieta, Sloughhouse and Cosumnes areas. The group has been meeting in the Wilton firehouse, but they get in the way of the firefighters, council member John Robinson said. Cub Scout and Girl Scout troops and the Future Farmers of America need a place to meet, and people having anniversaries, graduations and reunions need a place to rent, Lorraine Robinson added.

A rural community east of Elk Grove, Wilton is an unincorporated area with limited local government and more than a century of history. A sign reading “Welcome to the Country” greets drivers from the west, and buildings appear intermittently between stretches of farmland. There are about 5,400 people in the 29-square-mile area, according to census data.

“They have a strong community fiber,” Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli said of Wilton residents. Nottoli represents the area on the Board of Supervisors.

“Very active on a variety of issues in their community … they really come together to work on projects,” of which the community center is a great example, he said.

Some consideration was given to land associated with a development north of the area, but Wilton residents wanted a building closer to the center of their community, county staff said.

There was also the problem of money, since a new building would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Nottoli said.

The moment finally came when the Elk Grove Unified School District tore down and rebuilt Dillard Elementary School but left the multipurpose building standing because it was newer and still usable. The Wilton History Group asked the district in 2014 if the community could have the building for a community center, Robinson said.

“We went to them and asked them what they were going to do with the building,” John Robinson said.

The district agreed to Wilton’s request to use it for a community center for free. In the last two years, the county, the CSA 4B council and the district have been working through the bureaucratic hurdles of taking control of the building, including an agreement that prohibits certain activities, like drinking alcohol, during school hours.

“It’s going to be well, well used for many, many years to come as the focal point for social and other types of gatherings for the community,” Nottoli said.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison