Community Update – State Recognition/Assistance for City’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative



Wisconsin Rapids Welcomed into State’s Downtown Revitalization Program

wedcBack in January of 2014, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) took note of the important role that downtowns and historic commercial districts play in their communities, and in Wisconsin’s overall economy. They also understood the significance the “Main Street” program has played in Wisconsin communities since its inception in 1987. But in our case and others, taking on the full fledged responsibilities of the Main Street program is a feat. As a result, WEDC developed the Connect Communities Program as way to provide local civic leaders with access to resources and networking opportunities to start and maintain a district revitalization effort. A pathway, of sorts, to becoming primed for participation in the Main Street program. Since the program launched, participating communities have reported adding 175 net new businesses and more than 500 jobs, as well as $30 million in private investment.

I am pleased to report that WEDC today officially recognized the City of Wisconsin Rapids as just one of 18 communities around the state to be accepted into the Connect Communities Program this year. Applicants for this recognition were tasked with explaining the type of activities or assistance that they hope to undertake, as well as identify a local team that will be responsible for carrying out activities and participating in program events and training.

Among items presented to WEDC, Wisconsin Rapids shared details of the initiative under way LBTRto develop preliminary designs for enhancements to public spaces along the urban section of Riverbank. Residents were able to view early design concepts and alternatives at Lunch by the River on July 2.

The Connect Communities initiative goes beyond mere lip service. It provides Wisconsin Rapids with access to a variety of resources and training, including:

  • A Network to get new ideas from staff and other participating Connect Communities;
  • On-site visits from WEDC Community Development staff to assist in identifying needs and offering assistance;
  • Training opportunities for leadership and staff; and
  • Access to WEDC’s downtown development online library, and to specially developed resources and training materials.

We are proud that Wisconsin Rapids has been selected by the Connect Communities Program. This designation validates the vision shaped by years of local support – from the planning of civic leaders from years past down to our present day, to the interest and suggestions of everyday community residents. With continued engagement from our citizens, our involvement with Connect Communities will help us to leverage the unique assets of our Downtown Riverbank district.

Reinventing Our Future – The Time Is Now

Our City’s selection for inclusion in the State’s Connect Communities Program reaffirms points I made in an op-ed Column published last Saturday in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, regarding the importance of reinvigorating our City’s Riverbank area. (The Column will also appear in this weekend’s edition of the Wisconsin Rapids City Times).

In this article, I detailed the ways in which Wisconsin Rapids has begun a public effort to river2recognize and identify the potential return on public investments in one of our most precious resources – the Wisconsin River.  These initiatives included developing preliminary designs for enhancements to our public spaces along the urban section of Riverbank; and developing specifications and attaching cost estimates to some of the already identified. planned and resident-inspired improvements.  In a few short weeks, we will again engage with our consultant as they further define the preliminary designs of the public waterfront.

As mentioned in my 2015 State of the City Address this past February, the time is now for the city to reinvent the place we live, work, dine and entertain … and to reimagine and transform our local economy into one that is more diverse, and continuously attracts investment and talented, entrepreneurial people.

To read the full text of my op-ed piece, please follow this link

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Put Your Business on the Map!



Put Your Business on the Map … with Google

PYBOMIt is estimated that businesses that are online are expected to grow 40 percent faster than businesses that are not online.  That is why, early in 2014, the City of Wisconsin Rapids began working with Google on “Get Your Business Online.”  This initiative was designed to make it fast, easy and free for local businesses to spread the word about their businesses, by getting listed on an online search engine.

Now, I am pleased to announce that we are again collaborating with Google to help local business owners, through “Put Your Business on the Map.”

“Put Your Business on the Map” is designed to help local businesses increase their presence online with a variety of resources, including online listings and website creation services – all, available at no cost.

To get started, you just need to create an online listing and verify your business with Google by visiting  Or, you can call City Hall.

Being online helps increases your visibility, which helps to ensure business growth and competitiveness.  We believe all of our local businesses here in Wisconsin Rapids should be found online.  “Get Your Business on the Map” is designed to help strengthen our community, by connecting local businesses and customers so they can easily support each other.

Join us, as we work to get every Wisconsin Rapids business online and seen by the world.  Let us help you “Put Your Business on the Map”! 

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Riverbank Preliminary Designs



Riverbank Project Preview at Lunch by the River

Last Thursday, attendees to Lunch by the River had the great and fun opportunity to view several preliminary designs for our riverbank open spaces, as presented by Supermass Studio, the City’s riverfront design consultant.

The displays included the overall programming and planning framework of the riverbank park Supermassareas between Wisconsin Rapids dam and Riverview Expressway; as well as more detailed conceptual designs of Legion Park, Mead Rapids View Park, Veterans Memorial Park, and the west riverbank south of the Grand Avenue bridge area. Supermass representatives were on hand to offer project updates take your feedback and answer your questions. My favorite, the ‘Performance Knoll’ at Legion park where larger concerts could be held throughout the summer. It is also neat to see an alternative to that concept, a take on the city’s first swimming pool! The hammock grove was unique and could be a fun addition to our riverfront space!

You can view all the design boards here.  We are also welcoming your feedback! Comment below, on Facebook or by contacting myself or Planning & Economic Development Director Adam Tegen.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Riverbank Project Preview at Lunch by the River, City of Wisconsin Rapids Fourth of July Display



Riverbank Project Preview at Lunch by the River

I’m pleased to share an update and another opportunity to engage in our Riverbank Design Project! Earlier this month, we kicked off the idea-sharing and information gathering process, with a Nightseeing event– which saw us exploring and discovering the downtown and Wisconsin River, to set the stage for future nighttime design.  As we mark the second month since the inception of the work and initial site visit from our East Riverbank design consultant Supermass Studio, another site visit is underway. Since the time, marked progress has been made in bringing renewed life to Wisconsin Rapids’ waterfront public spaces!

veterans-memorial-parkNow, to show the progress made, I am excited to invite our residents to experience a preview of our City’s waterfront future, at this Thursday’s Lunch by the River, July 2, where Supermass Studio, our riverfront design consultant, will share early concepts.

The concepts will include the overall programming and planning framework of the riverbank public space between the Wisconsin Rapids dam and Riverview Expressway/Demitz Park; as well as more detailed concept designs of Legion Park, Mead Rapids View Park, Veterans Memorial Park, the east & west riverbank south of Grand Avenue bridge.

All are invited to ask questions and to offer your thoughts and suggestions.

Please join us at Veterans Memorial Park this Tomorrow, during 11:30 a.m. -1 p.m. to preview first hand the work by our consultant, and of course, for Lunch by the River!

Wisconsin Rapids Fireworks Display

 This Saturday, July 4, marks the return of the popular City of Wisconsin Rapids Fourth of July Independece Day Fireworks Display – widely recognized as one of the most unique, colorful and explosive shows in the entire State. The show begins at approximately 9:30 p.m., along the shores of the beautiful Wisconsin River, in Downtown Rapids.

This year’s Fourth of July Fireworks Display will be choreographed to music on local radio station WLJY 105.5; and members of the Teen Fireworks Committee, who diligently work to raise all the money to put on this event, have the richly deserved honor of launching the show with the ceremonial lighting of the first shot.

The show may be viewed along most of the riverbank, except for the launch zone on the western bank of the river, from the foot of the Grand Avenue Bridge to south of the Moravian Church.IMG_7266 Combined with other activities that bring our City to life during the July Fourth holiday period, the Fireworks Display brings our community together and helps pull in many out-of-town visitors each year – so it’s important to plan ahead.

For more information on logistics and safety reminders, visit:

Have a safe and enjoyable Independece Day celebration!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Street Construction Projects and Summer Activities



HomeSlide-Rafters2With another successful Cranberry Blossom Fest celebration concluded, I wish to thank all of the volunteers and sponsors who worked to make it possible as well as those who took part in the many events.

“Great Book Giveaway” and Summer Activities

Being able to read can make the difference between a child being successful in school or dropping out.  That is why I was proud to serve as a reading volunteer on June 10 at McMillan Memorial Library, as part of the United Way of Inner Wisconsin’s Sixth Annual Great Book Giveaway to send a message of the importance of reading, even during the summer.

Reading a favorite of mine, “Oh the places you will go” by Dr. Seuss.

In all, the Great Book Giveaway ran from Wednesday through Friday, June 10-12, at seven different locations.  Volunteers read books to children up to age 12.  Afterwards, each child selected books to take home and keep.  By putting free books into the hands of children, the Great Book Giveaway bestows a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Of course, this event was just one in the summer-long schedule of reading programs McMillan Memorial Library offers toddlers, children and teens.

Just a few of the major highlights include:

  • June 8-August 4 – Teen Reading Program (Ages 6-12}
  • June 23 – Teen Book Club
  • July 23 – All Ages Read-A-Thon
  • August 3 – Library Night @ the Rafters Book Giveaway

Early childhood learning is essential to the future of our society.  I urge children and youth, parents, grandparents, caregivers, and daycare providers to attend and participate in the full range of McMillan Memorial Library reading events this summer.  For more information, call 715-421-5131, or visit

For a listing of other summer fun for families and children, click here for Wisconsin Rapids Parks & Recreation Summer programs.

City Road Construction Projects

na_street_repaving_826_t640The City of Wisconsin Rapids works to make streets safer and maintain appropriate maintenance and reconstruction cycles. Knowing that preventive maintenance helps to avoid more costly repairs or early reconstruction later on, the City continuously seeks out ways within our means to keep our infrastructure healthy and sustainable for generations to come.

The following projects have been completed:

  • Washington Street Sidewalk – State Highway 54 to 28th Street N.
    Completed May 15
  • 17th Avenue N. – West Grand Avenue to Green Bay Street – Completed May 29
  • West Grand Avenue Pavement Patching – 25th Avenue to Viaduct
    Completed June 15

In order to promote driver and pedestrian safety during road roadclosedmaintenance season, our Public Works department wants local residents to be aware of these ongoing and upcoming street construction projects: Click each for a detailed project description.

  • 7th Avenue N. – Harrison Street to High StreetScheduled Completion June 24
    Closed to through traffic between High Street and Harrison Street; and at the High Street and 7th Avenue N. intersection. Truck route and detour routes from Riverview Expressway are at West Grand Avenue and Wilson Street.
  • Klevene Court – 15th Place S. to West Cul-de-sacScheduled Completion June 24
    No road closure.
  • 8th Street S and Grove Avenue Mid-block Concrete Refuge Island
    Completion is scheduled the week of June 26.
    Awaiting traffic control parts and planting in island area.
  • Apple Street – 8th Street S. to 12th Street S.Scheduled Completion Week of August 17.
    Road closed to through traffic between 8th Street S. to 12th Street S.
  • Chestnut Street – 8th Street S. to 16th Street S.
    Work begins the week of June 29, with scheduled completion the week of October 1.
    The road will be closed to through traffic between 8th Street S. to 16th Street S.
  • Municipal Zoo Parking Lot
    Completion is scheduled the week of September 28.
    The City will be reconstructing a new parking lot for the City zoo.  Work to be done includes grading and shaping the base course, paving asphalt, and painting parking lot stalls. This project will also improve the traffic flow between pedestrians and vehicles.
  • 8th Street S. and Chestnut Street Highway Safety Improvement Program
    Maintenance and modification work begins the week of September 28, with scheduled completion the week of October 19.
    This joint project between the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the City of Wisconsin Rapids is designed to solve safety concerns at the intersection.  Construction is for restriping and modifying traffic signals.  Some lane closure is expected, but no road closures

chipsealingnewIn addition, the Public Works Department will oversee the chip sealing and crack sealing of more than 50 streets, beginning the week of July 20, and finishing up the week of July 27. These maintenance and repair projects are designed to extend pavement life and provide good driving surfaces.

  • With chip seals, a thin film of heated asphalt liquid is sprayed on the road surface, followed by the placement of small aggregates (“chips”).  The chips are then compacted to maximize adherence to the asphalt, and excess stone is swept from the surface.
  • During the crack sealing process, maintenance crews will clean out all loose debris and dry out moisture in the cracks, and then apply the sealing compound
  • Traffic will resume on affected streets shortly after sealing procedures are complete.

When driving near these areas, consider an alternate route. Further, please proceed with caution; be aware of workers, equipment and barriers; and be prepared for possible delays. For more information, call the Engineering Department at: 715-421-8205; by email: or Streets Department at 715-421-8218 or

We thank everyone for their patience and understanding as we make all of these improvements to our City’s infrastructure.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – NightSeeing, Cranberry Blossom Festival and WSAW-TV’s “Your Town”



NightSeeing Event

Thanks to the impressive spirit of commitment by residents, property owners and investors- and the kickoff of our Riverbank Green Space and Recreation Preliminary Design project, our City stands ready to make the Wisconsin Rapids Downtown area truly a centerpiece of which will activate the spaces surrounding it.  In order to ensure continued success, this process requires imaginative thinking and citizen participation.

DSC_0027On Wednesday, June 3, we invited residents to hear and share ideas about revitalizing our Downtown riverfront environment during the nighttime hours – and then, experience an up-close look at the possibilities, during an evening walk along the river.

“NightSeeing” was conducted by Leni Schwendinger, a lighting designer/artist with Arup, an international firm of designers, planners, engineers, and technical specialists. During the NightSeeing walk, Ms. Schwendinger and her design team offered insights on the impact of lighting by pointing out the effects of existing lighting choices; envisioning the opportunities for enhancements; and inviting residents to take a critical look at lighting options and to express their preferences.

A video recap of the event can be found here:

Designed to spark community engagement and open minds to new approaches and imaginative DSC_5235ideas, NightSeeing programs have been held in the United States, Colombia, London and Australia. As Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids, I feel it is important that our public spaces be activated beyond the hours of daylight. We light our streets, how about our public spaces, too?  A vital element in realizing that vision includes creative lighting.

The “NightSeeing” event ties into the Riverbank Green Space and Recreation Plan, which will incorporate improvements along the east and west banks of the river within the City limits. Supermass Studios, the company hired for the plan, sub-contracted Arup for structural engineering and lighting design.

There will be further engagement opportunities for your participation in the coming months. We expect to have recommendations on the Riverbank Green Space in late summer.  In the meantime, we continue to act to reinvigorate a critical piece of our community- our core central business district.

Blossom Fest

blossomfestThis week marked the start of the 2015 Cranberry Blossom Festival!  This year’s Fest runs through
Sunday, and features something for every member of the family – a total of nearly 20 events, including live music, arts and crafts, exhibits, a variety of foods from local vendors, and our annual grand parade.  See a brief recap at River Cities Community Access Media.

Some of the featured events include:

  • Arts, Crafts and Cranberries Fair
    Saturday, June 20, from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at Witter Field
    You’ll find a treasure trove of crafts, framed art, pottery and cranberry-themed products.
  • Cranberry Blossom Festival Carnival
    Friday-Sunday, June 19-21, at Witter Field
    Families can enjoy carnival rides, games and food throughout the weekend.
  • Cranberry Blossom Fest Parade
    Sunday, June 21 at 12:00 noon, Downtown
    Our colorful parade along Grand Avenue this year features members of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band, who will follow up at 3 p.m. with a performance at Witter Field.

For full details on all the events,  Look forward to seeing you at the events!

600x-YTown-Road-SignWSAW Promotes “Our Town”!

This week, WSAW-Channel 7 news anchors and reporters have created stories throughout the community, for its week-long “Your Town” feature. The feature included live broadcasts for its 5:00 and 6:00PM newscasts at locations around our community highlighting much of what Wisconsin Rapids has to offer!

View the great exposure WSAW and area businesses provided Wisconsin Rapids right here.  I had a good time closing out the Live 6pm broadcast from Witter Field last night with news anchors Jeff Thelen, Heather Sahr and Director of Meteorology, Chris Nelson- Thanks Guys!

I hope to see you around this weekend! 

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – WR Fire Department and Riverview partner for Community Care Paramedicine program

Community Update

WR Fire Department and Riverview partner for Community Care Paramedicine program

From left: Joel Fetterer – Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department; Lisa Rowe-Peplinski – VP of Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, Aspirus; Zach Vruwink – Mayor, Wisconsin Rapids; Quinn Pixler – Case Manager Coordinator, Riverview Medical Center; Scott Young – Deputy Chief, WRFD; Peggy Ose – Interim Chief Operations Officer, RMC; Justin Pluess – Fire Fighter/Paramedic, WRFD; and Aaron Mancl – EMT, WRFD. Not pictured: Dave Kerkman– Chief, WRFD, Andy Metcalf – President/CEO, Riverview Health Foundation.

Earlier this year, I emphasized the importance of building a healthier community and the many forms that can take. I’m proud to acknowledge an effort between two of our city’s important institutions teaming up on a dynamic and creative approach to improve the health and wellness of our residents.

After a year of researching the successful results of community-based health care, the city of Wisconsin Rapids’ Fire Department (WRFD), in partnership with Riverview Hospital Association, launched on May 11 Community Care Paramedicine (CCP). This pilot program delivers an organized system of health care follow-up and preventive care services, to meet the specific needs of two patient groups:

  • Patients identified in the Riverview Hospital or Family Clinic as high risk for re-admittance or ongoing medical care; and
  • Patients who frequently use emergency medical services, 911 and/or the emergency room as a form of primary care.

Through CCP, WRFD and Riverview Hospital will identify eligible patients, who will be assigned a case manager to explain the benefits of the program. If a patient agrees to enroll, a WFRD community health care paramedic will schedule a home visit to review medications, activities, equipment, home safety and additional local services that may be required. CCP is strictly voluntary and is provided at no cost to the patient.

CCP provides a WIN-WIN-WIN for a healthier community, by:

  1. Strengthening our ability to recognize and target early on chronic diseases such as obstructive lung disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes and cancer;
  2. Directing patients to appropriate services to alleviate and prevent long-term diseases; and
  3. Decreasing the cost of, and burden on, community emergency care services.

CCP delivers new and improved preventive health care benefits, thus building upon the WRFD’s decades-long capabilities in preventive safety.

Having been adopted by a handful of cities across the nation, CCP represents the wave of the future in community-based care. Wisconsin Rapids is among the first in Wisconsin to launch the program; after the pilot is evaluated on its metrics and with hopeful success, we will consider continuing the program on a permanent basis. Ultimately, our vision, a healthier Wisconsin Rapids, will be achieved in part through a targeted approach with our most frequent EMS services users. I look forward to sharing an update on this program in the future.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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