Community Update – Park Upgrades, Boat Landing Usage Study and Flowering Basket Celebration

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Park Upgrades and Boat Landing Usage Survey            

While the first part of summer is behind us, there is still much to look forward to during our remaining warm weather months.  At their last meeting, the Wisconsin Rapids Parks & Recreation Commission committed to upgrades in two City parks, with ongoing discussions of improvements to other parks in the near future.

Poplar SpringsFirst, Poplar Springs Park will see new playground equipment in 2014.  With existing playground equipment past its useful life, the Commission made the decision to purchase and install new playground equipment, (Picture 1, Picture 2).  There are also plans to do finishing work in the area surrounding the playground equipment, with work conducted by a neighborhood volunteer group.  Please contact me if you are interested in participating in the Poplar Springs park work.

Legion Park will also be seeing upgrades in the near future.  Members of the 2014 Heart of Wisconsin Leadership group presented their project to the Parks & Recreation Commission. Their proposal includes installing a stamped concrete pad and electrical outlets to accommodate small events and performances, and installing grills, tables and trash receptacles in the surrounding area to allow for picnics and community gatherings.  The group’s request was inspired by members’ experiences in communities that have similar accommodations.  One such example is in Eau Claire’s Phoenix Park– with its location on the Chippewa River, and hosts similar amenities including performance area, interconnected walking paths and bike trails, as well as natural and passive areas.  The Commission voted to match funds raised by the Leadership Group for the enhancements, with an anticipated install timeline for this fall.  The group is accepting contributions.

Finally, the Parks & Recreation Commission has begun discussing possible improvements to be made to City parks, with the goal of prioritizing future projects.  This process has a planned involvement of City Staff as well as those who use them most- our City residents.  While a formal opportunity will exist in the near future, please feel free to share feedback now!

I first spoke on the need for further investment in our public spaces at my State of the City address last January.  At that time, I spoke of the “3rd Space” concept, referring to where we spend our time beyond work or home.  Wisconsin Rapids has much to be proud from this perspective- a robust trail system, municipal zoo, skatepark and over 100 acres of City parks.  But it’s what is in our parks that draws people to spend time in them, and we can do more.  Last January, I called for a multi-year investment in our parks, to help make our City a more attractive place for residents and future residents.  More importantly, I noted that to be successful, this process has to involve residents to participate in sharing their ideas.   Public places can be multi-use, public destinations and our parks are ripe for that. It is without doubt, they will create strong economic synergy of the land surrounding them.  More details will follow on public input opportunities for improvements to our parks as methods for input are established..

Understanding baseline usage of our assets will help prepare us for investments in the future. Boatlanding Earlier this year, City Staff and I met with residents who recognized an opportunity exists to improve the public’s access point to our City’s valuable asset- the Wisconsin River- through monitoring the Ben Hanson Park Boat Landing during the summer months.  The project involves area youth, as researchers, to examine who uses the boat landing, what activities people use the river for, where those who use the river come from and the number of people currently using the facilities at the landing.  The idea behind this survey is that current users may have valuable suggestions and ideas for enhancements to the area- this gives them another way to voice their ideas for improvements in our community.  The project is being funded by Incourage Community Foundation through a “What-If Grant” and hopes to be a catalyst to making mindful improvements to public spaces.  I applaud the efforts of these individuals as well as the youth volunteers participating in this project.  If you or someone you know uses the landing, be sure to participate in the survey!

July 4th Fireworks Display 

Last Friday, in continuing a tradition of hosting one of the finest fireworks display in the area, we teen fireworksagain witnessed a spectacular show.  The event went off wonderfully, in large part to the beautifully cooperative weather.  The display would not be possible if not for a combined effort of community and our City Employees.  The Teen Fireworks Committee was able to surpass their $18,000 fundraising goal this year to continue our tradition of hosting the spectacular event, and donations from area businesses and individuals helped ensure that Wisconsin Rapids has one of the best 4th of July fireworks shows in Wisconsin!  If you missed the show, you can watch a video of the display here.

I want to give a special thanks to all City staff who helped make the event a success.  Planning for the fireworks event begins well before July 4, with a group of City Staff and residents working on planning months in advance to ensure the event goes off smoothly.  This is no small task, and I want to thank all those involved from fundraising and planning, to cleanup after the night’s activities.

Flowering Basket Celebration

If you’ve walked Grand Avenue or spent time in Veterans Park, you’vehangingbaskets probably noticed the flowering of Grand Avenue, 1st/2nd Street and Oak Street is in full bloom.  In total, 38 lampposts in the aforementioned downtown areas now have hanging baskets thanks to the support and sponsorship by generous members of the community.

The hanging flower baskets are a great example IMG_0420of a community coming together to beautify our City.  Thanks to the Water Works & Lighting Commission for their efforts in hanging the brackets on each post, as well as Wisconsin Rapids City employees for assistance in coordinating the effort, hanging the baskets, and watering.  Finally a very special thank you to Sue Wesley, watering volunteers, and members of the Mayor’s Council on Beautification for their efforts in making the idea a reality.

Now that the baskets are up, join the group on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 5:00PM at Jennings & Co. to celebrate the collective success of the initiative.  Refreshments and snacks will be provided, followed by a self-guided tour of the baskets to view the recognition plaques from each sponsor.  Finally, information will be provided on next year’s plans for the initiative.  I hope to see you there!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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