Community Update: City Takes Action on Emerald Ash Borer, Need Replacement Trees? Community Tree Sale Now Under Way, JCPenney Store Closure Is a Challenge – and a Call to Arms



City Takes Action on Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)

Last May, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed the presence of emerald ash borer (EAB) in the City of Wisconsin Rapids. At that time, the DNR placed Wood County and neighboring counties under quarantine, prohibiting the removal and transfer of ash wood products and hardwood firewood to non-quarantine areas.

Emerald Ash Borer

Fortunately, even before the the DNR confirmed the presence of EAB last year, the City had already committed to apply for a DNR matching grant that helped the City prepare a survey of City-owned ash tree stock, along with an urban forestry management plan.

Our survey reveals that Wisconsin Rapids has around 265 “public” ash trees, the vast bulk of which are located along our expressway/boulevard areas. The City has already begun the process of taking down approximately 40 trees rated as being in poor or very poor condition.

We are also evaluating treatment for trees that are still in good or very good condition. Treatment against EAB is generally effective for about two or three years, at which time another treatment can be applied.

Photo by Travis Plowman/WR City Multimedia Specialist – City crews work on cutting down the trees that are infected with Emerald Ash Borer disease along the Expressway in Wisconsin Rapids Wednesday afternoon.

The goals of our efforts include:

  • Delay devastation of current tree stock;
  • Allow time to take down infected trees; and
  • Replant more diverse species of trees.

Emerald ash borer adults lay eggs on the bark of ash trees in mid- to late summer. When the eggs hatch a week or two later, the larvae burrow under the bark for the winter and feed, destroying the tree’s ability to take in nutrients and water. Visible signs include a decline in tree canopy and what looks like bark falling off, essentially the result of woodpeckers attacking the larvae.

The City of Wisconsin Rapids website offers extensive information that enables residents to recognize the symptoms of EAB, help treat a suspected outbreak on their property, and contact agencies and professional arborists to provide assistance. You can find further information and guidance regarding options for your property and businesses by calling the Department of Public Works, at 715-421-8255.

The final report on our urban forestry inventory project will help lead to a management plan that enables us to identify best practices to defend against infestations such as EAB and the best sources to implement these practices. To that end, Public Works Director Joe Terry plans to reach out to the Urban Forestry Department at Mid-State Technical College to partner on a coordinated effort to manage our urban forest.

With City government, State and local education resources, and local citizens working together, we will successfully combat this pestilence.

Need Replacement Trees? Community Tree Sale Now Under Way

Do you need to remove and replace trees damaged by disease or storms … or simply want to spruce up your property or enhance the “look” and “feel” of your neighborhood? Now is the time: The
Mayor’s Council on Beautification has launched its Community Tree Sale.

Money from the sale helps to fund more beautification projects for the city, building upon our natural-resource assets, and improving the quality-of-life experience for residents and visitors alike.

Through April 30, you can order from among four species of six- to eight-foot bare root trees for $65 apiece, with pick-up in early May at the City Garage.

  • Red Jewel Crabapple – Upright, pyramidal shape with single white flowers, followed by bright red one-half-inch persistent fruits; grows to 15’x12’.
  • Royalty Crabapple – Crimson flower with reddish-purple fruit and high-sheen, waxy leaves; grows to 18’x15’.
  • Whitespire Birch – Displays chalk-white bark and a hardy nature; grows to 40’x20’.
  • Wisconsin Weeping Willow – Green or brown pendulous branches with narrow, dark and glossy green leaves; grows to 50’x50’

Order for yourself, or for your community. You can also order in remembrance of a special loved one – memorial plaques are available at additional cost.

For more information, or to place an order, call Sue Winch at 715-213-1747 or e-mail

JCPenney Store Closure Is a Challenge – and a Call to Arms

Last week, our City was confronted with a challenge that will test our vision to re-create our future as a destination of choice in which to live, work and play. This challenge also may jumpstart the creativity and boldness we will need to successfully forge ahead.

J. C. Penney Company announced that its Wisconsin Rapids JCPenney, an anchor of our Downtown Rapids Mall for nearly 40 years, is among 138 such stores nationwide that will be closed. The liquidation process is expected to begin in mid-April, with final resolution expected by the month of June.

Rest assured, the City will do all it can to ensure that affected employees have access to local employment opportunities and family support resources.

At the same time, I and other City leaders are working with Rapids Mall ownership to map out a strategy that will enable our beautiful Downtown area, with all of its natural assets, to provide residents and visitors with unique shopping experiences. These discussions may ultimately lead to a full property redevelopment that changes the face of our Downtown district.

The closing of our local JCPenney store comes some 10 years after the Penney Company initially planned to close the Rapids Mall location. With the support of local Penney store management and civic leaders, we were able to retain this important retail fixture. Unfortunately, the company has been unable to duplicate our local success on a national basis.

This reflects a cultural and lifestyle trend that has seen consumers transition away from regional malls and department stores in favor of speciality retailers and online shopping. The marketplace is changing – and with it, so has our local community … as well as our neighbors: The Marshfield JCPenney store inside the Woodridge Shoppes also will be affected by this corporate action leaving Central Wisconsin without a retail presence following previous closures in Stevens Point and Wausau.

As a community, we have certainly weathered serious storms. But – as with the successful effort to retain the JCPenney store a decade ago – we also have demonstrated our capacity to work together for the benefit of our neighbors today, and for the future of generations to come. This unique and collaborative spirit, embodied in the signs of vitality already in evidence along and near our riverfront, will be essential to our ongoing success.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



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