Wheeler Park was named after famed poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox, who was born and lived in the immediate area of the park's location. A country grade school in the area, one half mile to the east on Easy Street, was also named after Ella Wheeler Wilcox. (The school remains and has since been converted into a single family residence).
Residents on the Hickory Meadows, acting through a neighborhood organization, first approached the Town of Vienna Board in 1978 with their desire for a neighborhood park. The town encouraged and supported the concept, but informed the residents that a majority of the financial investment must be generated through their efforts and donations.
The neighborhood association initially sought and received the donation of a two and one half acre piece of land for the park in the fall of 1978, and the detailed planning for the development of the park began. Requests were made to area and community businesses for support and material donations. The Town agreed to participate in a Dane County Work Experience Program for disadvantaged young people. Under the terms for the program, the County paid the workers wages on the condition that the Town supplied the supervision, tools, and work experience training. The Town Clerk acted as the supervisor for from two to four young people with the assistance of neighboring residents. The neighborhood residents and program children, leveled and seeded the ground, planted trees and flowers, constructed a park shelter and picnic tables, prepared a softball field, and made various other improvements.
Many major donations of time and materials were given by area businesses. Payne & Dolan Asphalt donated and prepared the surface for a tennis court, F.H. Raemisch & Sons donated hundreds of tons of crushed rock for the subsurface of the tennis court, Melvin Paulson & Sons Construction donated additional crushed stone and leveled the surface for the asphalt, Lee Peterson excavated the tennis court and softball field as needed, and Trachte Buildings donated the materials for the roof of the park shelter. The town also requested and received a swing set and other playground equipment from the Madison Parks Department. Wisconsin Power and Light drilled the holes for the softball backstop and tennis court standards, and donated used poles. Area electrician, Donald Leonard, donated his time for the electrical work while other skilled area craftsmen and residents provided the vast majority of the labor.
The Town also sought and received several thousand dollars of matching funding through a DNR Lawcon grant, most of which was used for the purchase and erection of a large circular slide. The Town agreed to lease a portable toilet, provide for the mowing, and to secure insurance for the park.
The park was dedicated in 1979 and became a wonderful and exciting reality in the summer of 1980. The Hickory Meadows Neighborhood Association purchased and donated two additional subdivision lots to the park in 1982. In the seceding years the neighborhood association has donated additional playground equipment, labor and support for necessary upkeep and maintenance, and supervised and managed the park as necessary.
Since its inception, the park has become a comfortable neighborhood gathering spot, a site for neighborhood picnics and park fund raisers, and has even been used for a wedding. The efforts and generous donations of the neighborhood and community has clearly made this park a Community Park in every important sense.