Community Update: Wisconsin Rapids and Biron Recreational Trail Link Closer to Reality



Wisconsin Rapids and Biron Recreational Trail Link Closer to Reality

Photo by Jesse Austin/WRCM – A view of the construction along 1st St. N.

During a special meeting held on July 20, members of the Biron Board voted 5-2 to approve an intergovernmental agreement to reimburse the City of Wisconsin Rapids up to the amount of $10,000 for design, construction and other costs associated with the 1st Street North-Biron Drive road and trail project. The entire trail connection is estimated to cost $65,000.

This decision makes possible the expansion of a recreational resource that links multiple communities, by tying into our existing trail system that connects to Grand Rapids, Port Edwards, Nekoosa and beyond.

Over the past three years or so, the Village of Biron has performed a reconstruction of South Biron Drive. During this time, Biron’s engineers reached out to Wisconsin Rapids leadership about a potential connection to the project that would tie into our current trail system. As City leaders, we took a holistic view of this project. By financially assisting Biron, we would create an asset that attracts thousands of residents and visitors each year, and add value to our Riverfront and Community Redevelopment efforts.

Officials from the City, the Village and the Regional Economic Growth Initiative met several times to discuss realignment and trail connection issues. We placed the trail on the Wisconsin River side to maximize the aesthetic pleasure of users, avoid a nuisance to property owners and alleviate snowplowing maintenance questions. As part of the street realignment, the road width was narrowed and on-street parking eliminated. This entire project has been conducted on existing right of way, so that no property had to be purchased.

Wisconsin Rapids construction crews have been engaged in utilities, pavement and asphalt work along 1st Street North, up to the north City limits. We could not, however, begin work beyond our corporate border with Biron without a cost-sharing agreement with the Village. At the July 18 Wisconsin Rapids Common Council meeting, City officials negotiated with our counterparts in Biron to find a solution that allows for a connection. These tough, yet civil, conversations led to the positive July 20 decision by the Biron Village Board.

I want to send out a special thanks to the residents along 1st Street North. These citizens have displayed so much patience during this uniquely challenging construction project. Their understanding and positive attitude have contributed to what promises to be a much appreciated recreational amenity.

For weekly updates from the Engineering Department in-regards to construction, please visit

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Master Plan for Mead Field Comes into Focus, City Seeks Developer for High-Potential Triangle Area Property, An important community asset, McMillan Library, offers valuable courses



Master Plan for Mead Field Recreational Resources Come into Focus

Photo by Tom Loucks/WR City Multimedia Coordinator – Mayor Zach Vruwink explains concepts of the Mead Complex Master Plan to visitors during Thursday evenings meeting at Mead School

A timeline for ground-breaking and public opening for a splash pad area adjacent to Mead Elementary Charter School, and exciting changes for the future of recreational resources at Mead Field both came into sharper focus last Thursday evening. That’s when the Mead Field Master Plan was revealed to residents who gathered at Mead Elementary School.

Photo by MSA – A concept of the splash pad in the Mead Complex. If you have ideas, please share at

We are thrilled that we will are planning to break ground on the splash pad area beginning in early May, with plans to open to the public in July.

During the gathering on Thursday, representatives from civic design consultant MSA Professional Services presented the proposed Mead Park Field splash park design. The presentation included highlights of design concepts generated by Mead School student leaders, some of whom were on hand for the event.

Photo by Tom Loucks/City of WR Multimedia Coordinator – Students gather around Mayor Zach Vruwink to show their support for the project.

We are grateful to the Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin, which has pledged to donate up to $500,000 to construct the splash pad at Mead Field. We deeply appreciate the Foundation’s investment in our City’s future. On a personal level, I look forward to the ongoing enthusiasm and creativity displayed by members of the Mayor’s Youth Council, who will play an important role in community fundraising efforts.

MSA staff also provided an introduction to the Mead Field Master Plan, including locations for the splash pad and ball fields, and portrayed an overall vision for future multi-use recreational capabilities that appeals to the needs of all age groups.

Photo by MSA – Mead Complex Masterplan

Mead Complex Details included:

  • Reconfiguration of the baseball fields to provide better participant access and allow for a central hub to facilitate multi-team tournament play;
  • Two new tennis courts to complement the four already available, development of a trail area.
  • Creation of spaces for visitors who simply want to enjoy a park experience;
  • Construction of an events building that would allow for year-round rentals; and
  • Open-air shelters that could be rented for special events;The presentation was followed by an open house with myself, City Council members and City staff, and MSA personnel, during which attendees could exchange comments and concerns.

On April 6, community members will have another opportunity to become aware and lend their voices to our City’s progress. At that time, MSA will present the Concept Master Plan for our other major project, the $8.5-million Witter Field aquatics center facility. We will provide more details as this significant event draws closer.

Keep in mind that what we have achieved thus far represents important “first steps”; there is much work left to do. But we can be encouraged that we are moving forward toward developing facilities that will put our City on the map as a local and regional destination for recreational fun.

For more photos of the Thursday event click, here, or a video click, here.

City Seeks Developer for High-Potential Triangle Area Property

After years of planning, our City’s revitalization of its historic Waterfront District has already changed the face of the Wisconsin Rapids Downtown area. Combined with renewed confidence resulting in a resurgence of tens of millions of dollars in economic activity ether spent or planned, our City remains poised for growth. Recognizing that important work still remains before the ultimate fulfillment of our goals, we continue to seek partners who will help us further the progress toward rejuvenating our Downtown area.

To that end, Wisconsin Rapids recently issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to redevelop the Triangle Area, located on the block bounded by 1st Street North (west and north), East Jackson Street (south) and Market Street (east). The Triangle serves as the northeast gateway to the Downtown area, overlooking the Wisconsin River and our beautiful public park spaces. It is ideally suited for a mixed-use development, which could include residential, office, retail, restaurant, convenience store/grocery, among other uses.

City conducts housing study to assess current market and potential, here.

To jumpstart this redevelopment project, the City last year purchased the former Spath and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) buildings, along with land on the other side of the block that included the former Labor Temple/Good Time Charlie’s Sports Bar. Since then, City crews have demolished the Spath, USDA and Good Time Charlie’s buildings. After demolition of the Good Time Charlie’s building, the City hired consultant Robert E. Lee and Associates to perform an environmental assessment, which revealed minor environmental issues. They are now completing Phase 2 environmental investigations, partially funded by a $150,000 Site Assessment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Results are expected in a matter of weeks.

With all our recent initiatives and momentum, we are excited to offer this partnership opportunity, and we welcome developers to share with us their visions of sustainable residential, commercial and retail redevelopment.

You can find the Triangle Area Request for Proposal by visiting, or by calling Adam Tegen, Director of Community Development, at 715-421-8225.

An important community asset, McMillan Library, offers valuable courses

Today’s lifelong learners come in a range of ages, and with a variety of interests. For these individuals, McMillan Memorial Library Library  provides a free learning resource designed to transform lives and foster positive changes in our community.

Gale Courses engage learners with more than 350 instructor-led online courses that focus on professional development, technology skills and personal enrichment. These six-week courses are taught by college instructors and experts in the field to ensure high-quality, high-impact educational experiences.

Gale Courses are tied to the Bureau of Labor Statistics fastest-growing occupations and include:

  • Business professional support, including business law, human resources, management, manufacturing and marketing;
  • Computers and technology, from beginner to advanced;
  • Parenting, the arts and hobbies; and
  • Health and wellness.McMillan Library has prepared a list of classes of special interest to business people, job seekers and writers.The great advantage of Gale Courses is that this learning tool is right at your fingertips – you do not need to live in Wisconsin Rapids or Wood County to gain access. To get started on your educational journey, you simply need to have a LINK/McMillan Library card and designate McMillan as your home library.To check out the complete course catalog, or to sign up for a class, go here.

Let the learning begin!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Season’s Greetings, Help Map Our City’s Future with Your Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Input



Season’s Greetings

chirstmas-lightsThe Christmas season is a time when we can gather with our family and friends in bonds of peace and harmony. This is also a time when we share the gifts of generosity and good cheer.

So, as you experience all the happiness this most wonderful time has to offer, let us also this season reflect on all our fellow citizens who volunteer their time to offer moments of grace and comfort to others throughout the year.

I also want to thank City staff for all their hard work throughout the year to make this a better place for all of us to work, live and play.

To each and every resident of the Wisconsin Rapids community, I wish you blessed and joyous holidays.

Help Map Our City’s Future with Your Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Input


Image Source: Bicycle Transportation Alliance

One of the blessings of the Wisconsin Rapids area is its bounty of natural resources, ideally suited for a wide range of recreational activities. Now, with a few clicks of their fingertips, residents in our community have an opportunity to help determine how to enhance bicycling and walking amenities both here and throughout the 10-county north central Wisconsin region.

The North Central Wisconsin Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan offers an interactive mapping activity that allows participants to provide input on a map about bicycling and walking in the north central Wisconsin region.

You can log in with an email address or anonymously. Route markers allow you to pinpoint routes you like to ride or walk, where you think improvements are needed, or where you would like a path to be created. Point markers allow you to highlight destinations, conflict points and areas where bike parking is needed. Using your email address at login enables you to return to the map and edit your input at a later time, or receive project updates.

Your contributions to this plan can also help the Wisconsin Rapids community prioritize funding, and obtain grants for bicycling and walking improvements.

In addition to Wood County, the North Central Wisconsin Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan takes in Adams, Forest, Juneau, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Portage, Oneida and Vilas counties.

I encourage our citizens to take advantage of this unique way to map our City’s future.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Join Santa, Staff and I for City Hall Holiday Open House, Share Your Neighborhood’s Christmas Spirit



Celebrate the Most Wonderful Time of the Year at City Hall

holiday-partyAs we move deeper into the season of joyous tidings and good cheer, we invite all local residents to join us on Monday, December 19, for our annual City Hall Holiday Open House. This festive event will take place from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m., in the Lobby of City Hall, at 444 W. Grand Avenue.

You’re invited to make your way through City Hall, visit each City department, and learn more about how we serve you and fellow citizens throughout the year. In addition, you and your family will experience a guest appearance from Santa Claus. Mayor’s Youth Council members have also decorated city hall with coloring’s done from schools in our city.

To help share the traditional spirit of giving, we ask that you please consider bringing a donation of food, toys or cash for local food pantries; the Wisconsin Rapids Firefighters Association’s 48th annual Toy Project; The Family Center; and the Boys & Girls Club of the Wisconsin Rapids Area. By doing so, you and yours can take home a complimentary photo with Santa.

Share Your Neighborhood’s Christmas Spirit via our App

As we have come to expect each year, Downtown Wisconsin Rapids is aglow with a lively array of Christmas lights this holiday season.

img_0836Now, I invite all residents to do their part to place holiday cheer at their neighbors’ fingertips. Share your own holiday-season experiences, by “pinning” your photos of Christmas light decorations online, via our SeeClickFix app, a reporting application for you on your Smartphone.

Since its introduction, SeeClickFix has enabled citizens to conveniently submit neighborhood concerns from their Smartphone, the Wisconsin Rapids website, in person or over the phone. These issues are then sent automatically to the right official, with the right information, to get the job done – while keeping you in the loop all the way with clear, understandable updates.


Reporting App.

Sharing your unique images of the season via SeeClickFix is a great way to become more familiar with this valuable online resource … while spreading cheer to family, friends and neighbors.
So, as you drive around this year and take in the festive atmosphere, look for opportunities to create memorable impressions. See, click and post – with your Smartphone.

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Celebrate the Holidays at Historical Museum “Christmas Tree Walk”, Council on Beautification Spearheads Sharing of the Spirit Downtown, Legion Park Picnic Grove Begins Taking Shape



 Celebrate the Holidays at Historical Museum “Christmas Tree Walk”

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-10-09-40-amThis is the time of the year when one of our area’s great treasures helps us to celebrate the holidays.

Starting this weekend, the South Wood County Historical Museum adds a festive note to the season, during its annual “Christmas Tree Walk” event. You can wrap yourself in an atmosphere of warmth and good cheer, on Saturday and Sunday, December 3 and 4, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.; Friday, December 9, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, December 10, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

The museum will come alive with themed Christmas tree arrangements, holiday table decorations and special Christmas collections, provided by local organizations and individuals. Live vocal and instrumental music, and complimentary refreshments will also help to convey the holiday spirit.

This event also provides an opportunity for residents and visitors alike to experience the rich history of our community, through a wealth of exhibits highlighted by vintage displays, photos and documents.

So, take time with friends and family to take in “Christmas Tree Walk.” This event is sponsored by the South Wood County Historical Corporation, the Mayor’s Council on Beautification and through a grant from Incourage. The museum is located at 540 3rd Street South in Wisconsin Rapids. For additional weekend events, visit this link.

Council on Beautification Spearheads Sharing of the Spirit

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-10-32-33-amVisitors to our Downtown area this year have been able to experience even more of the season’s spirit than usual. Thanks to the leadership of the Mayor’s Council on Beautification and our local Yard & Garden Club, and generous donations from businesses and individuals, several streets in the heart of our City have been brightened by the addition of colorful floral balls – or, as they are often described, “kissing balls.”

Purchased from local tree farms, these hand-made floral creations were installed just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, on November 21. They can be viewed on 1st Street from East Jackson to Oak Street; 2nd Street from East Jackson to East Grand Avenue; and Oak Street from 2nd to 4th Streets.

According to Council on Beautification member Sue Wesley, the council’s desire to do something “special” during the holidays received a supportive “push” from a local merchant, and the (kissing) ball started rolling from there.

Thanks and appreciation also go out Public Works- Streets division staff, whose positive response to this idea affirms their ongoing efforts to make the City of Wisconsin Rapids a better place in which to live.

Legion Park Picnic Grove Plans Take Shape

dsc_7339Thanks to the generosity of businesspeople and private donors, fixed picnic tables and grills will soon be set up to create a scenic picnic grove at Legion Park. This is hopefully just the first step in an ambitious and creative proposal by Heart of Wisconsin 2014 Leadership Class members to strengthen an older neighborhood, while at the same time enhancing our riverfront trail system.

These community leaders viewed the former east-side pool site on 1st Street as a beautiful space that was woefully underutilized. After the group presented its plan to the Park and Recreation Commission, the Commission approved moving forward with the project and agreed to provide matching funds up to $11,000. At its November 2 meeting this month, the Commission approved matching funds for the purchase of park tables, in the amount of $9,206. The tables will be delivered this winter. A formal dedication will occur in Spring.

While the picnic grove is a welcome development for Legion Park and for the surrounding community, the Leadership Class envisioned even more for the area, with the support of the City. As a result, concrete pads will be poured for a patio stage/amphitheater in the southwest corner of the park, as a site for acoustic musical performances. This facility will be located inside the recreational trail. This concept is similar to park amenities found in Eau Claire’s Phoenix Park and Wausau waterfront.

The potential recreational opportunities offered by the Legion Park site, along with the recent opening of Le Chateau, The Manor Bed and Breakfast, at 840 1st Street North, should inspire all of us to consider how the living experience in a neighborhood can be enlivened and upgraded.

Thanks for reading!

Mayor Zach Vruwink


“Rekindle the Spirit” with Holiday Parade and Celebration, Local Stakeholders Invited to Learn about “Investing in Healthy Communities”



“Rekindle the Spirit” with Holiday Parade and Celebration

The holidays are upon us, and I invite one and all to again observe the season this Wednesday evening by celebrating a colorful Downtown Wisconsin Rapids tradition – the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce’s Rekindle the Spirit” Holiday Parade and CelebrationThis festive occasion offers something for every member of t
he family.

  • The fun begins at 5:45 p.m., when I lead the countdown of the Tree Lighting Ceremony in Veterans Memorial Park.
  • The Holiday Parade immediately follows, featuring emergency services vehicles from Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding communities, area veterans, and floats representing local businesses and organizations. The procession starts from the JCPenney parking lot at Rapids Mall, makes its way across Grand Avenue Bridge and ends at 4th Street.screen-shot-2016-11-22-at-12-15-08-pm
  • After the parade, Hotel Mead welcomes everyone to enjoy its warm hospitality, highlighted by a visit with Santa, music, and hot chocolate and cookies in the Riverside Ballroom.
  • Then, cap off the evening at McMillan Memorial Library for a screening of the heartwarming movie Christmas Land, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Share the good cheer … join us this Wednesday for “Rekindle the Spirit”!

Local Stakeholders Invited to Learn about “Investing in Healthy Communities”

healthy-communitites-copyOur recent national election brought to the forefront significant concerns and questions about the health and economic well-being of our citizens and the communities in which they live. To this end, it is an honor that our City will soon host a daylong conference that takes on these challenges with fresh and innovative ideas.

Incourage and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago are co-sponsoring “Investing in Healthy Communities: Ideas to Action for Health People, Places and Planet” on Wednesday, December 7. A range of leaders from the fields of banking, community development finance, philanthropy, health care, city planning and government will share leading practices in economic development, sustainability and investment.

A major focus will be on approaches to strengthening ties between urban and rural communities, and on the ways in which banks, community development financial institutions, philanthropy, and others are investing to promote across-the-board access to health and prosperity.

This daylong event takes place from 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., at Hotel Mead. Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics, Inc., University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and the Wood County Health Department are among the organizations serving as hosts.

Conference attendees can expect to:

  • Explore promising community development opportunities and sustainable, innovative financing strategies
  • Consider the interdependence of rural and urban communities
  • Learn how environmentally sustainable practices advance health and well-being
  • Grow and strengthen networks

Participate in collaborative action to realize healthy communities.  Since my “State of the City” address in March of 2015, I have encouraged our citizens to pursue a “healthy community” vision for Wisconsin Rapids, centered on fostering and nurturing an environment for business development and job growth; making city services more accessible and responsive to our citizens; and engaging citizens to help shape the culture and the future of our community. This conference echoes and expands upon those themes.

I urge stakeholders who play a role in forging our community’s economic development to attend this most timely event.

Register for the event, here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Early Voting Available Tomorrow at City Hall, Busy Public Works Construction Season Comes to a Close, Every Kid in a Park



Early Voting Available Tomorrow (Saturday) at City Hall


The long campaign season is winding down, along [Deep Sigh]

City of Wisconsin residents still have time to cast early ballots early for the General Election with in-person absentee (early) voting available tomorrow, Saturday, November 5, at the City Clerk’s office on the first-floor of City Hall, at 444 West Grand Avenue.

Voters who opt for tradition should remember that Election Day is next Tuesday, November 8. Polling takes place from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., at these locations:

  • Grove Elementary School, 471 Grove Ave.
  • Howe Elementary School, 221 8th Street N.
  • Mead Elementary Charter School, 241 17th Avenue S.

Fo more information about the election process in the city please visit our City’s elections website page, here.

Whatever time you decide to vote, keep in mind that you must be or become a registered voter in the City of Wisconsin Rapids and have a valid form of identification.

Please exercise your precious American privilege to affirm the candidate of your choice!

“Every Kid in a Park” Initiative Expands Learning Opportunities for Young Students

park-logoThe time is now to plan a spring or summer park trip visit that can expand the traditional classroom for our young people.

To help engage and create our next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates, the White House, in partnership with the Federal Land Management agencies, launched the Every Kid in a Park” initiative. The immediate goal is to give 4th grade students across the country the opportunity to experience their federal public lands and waters in person throughout the 2016-2017 school year.

By visiting, all kids in the 4th grade can obtain an Every Kid in a Park pass. This pass provides free access to national parks across the country throughout the 2016-2017 school year, until August 31, 2017. Teachers also can obtain the free passes for their students.

In support of Every Kid in a Park, the National Park Foundation is raising funds to help connect fourth graders to America’s public lands and waters through transportation grants, with a special focus on underserved and urban communities. With cutbacks in school funding for field trips, this strategic funding will help provide comprehensive access to all national parks.

As an educational “plus,” this initiative also helps schools and families arrange field trips and visits by providing trip-planning tools that highlight educational programs and tools that connect students, teachers, families and volunteers with public lands and waterways.

With support from the Every Kid in a Park initiative, and with encouragement from parents, teachers and all residents concerned about our children’s future, enabling 4th graders to visit, experience and enjoy their country’s spectacular outdoor places can help them to become lifelong learners, both inside and outside the classroom.

Information about our City parks, here.

Busy Public Works Construction Season Comes to a Close

Under the guidance of the City of Wisconsin Rapids Public Works Director, our Public Works Department staff are responsible for, among other tasks, coordinating short-and long-range planning and implementation of new construction, infrastructure management and replacements – all designed to enhance the safety, convenience and quality of life for our City, its residents and visitors.

As these professionals conclude a fruitful season of activity, two projects particularly spring to mind:

14729195_1252032748172107_4302444348616223397_n8th and Chestnut Streets Safety Enhancement – State-contracted crews recently completed safety improvements at the intersection of 8th Street South and Chestnut Street, which was the scene of 54 crashes between the years of 2003 and 2009. The new intersection layout provides dedicated left turn lanes that allow drivers to see oncoming traffic more clearly, as well as left turn signals that allow for a protected left turn phase.

For a video of the intersection please click, here.

A brief overview of 2016 Public Works projects includes:

  • April 6 – 24th Street South, 100-foot extension at Home Depot (1,050 feet north of County Highway W); completed in early June.
  • April 18 – Apple Street, from 12th Street South to 15th Street South; completed in early June.
  • June 6 – 1st Street North closed to through traffic from Spring Street to Poplar Street, with detours for 1st Street truck traffic along State Highway 54, Riverview Expressway, West Grand Avenue and West Jackson Street, and for all other local traffic along Pleasant view Drive, 5th Street North and Spring Street; completed in late October.
  • September 12 – 3rd Avenue North, from West Grand Avenue to Jackson Street, closed to through traffic due to street reconstruction; re-opened in November.
  • October 7 – 1st Street North, between Apricot Street and Lavigne Avenue, closed to through traffic for water main improvements and street resurfacing; re-opened in late October.
  • City Hall and Fireman’s Memorial – Parking lots at both sites were re-paved, striped and are now open to traffic.
  • 2016 Sewer Lining Project – Manhole rehabilitation work remains on 17th Avenue. Subcontractor Hydro-Klean will soon finish this work, after which the City can begin closing out the project with prime contractor Visu-Sewer.

We thank the residents of our community for their patience and understanding as our dedicated Public Works employees strive to ensure our City infrastructure replacements go as smoothly as possible making our city an attractive place to live and do business.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink