Community Update: Wisconsin Rapids Earns U.S. Mayors Award for Bike Share Program, Free Access to Wi-Fi Now Available in Downtown Parks



Wisconsin Rapids Earns U.S. Mayors Award for Bike Share Program

Last week when the U.S. Conference of Mayors held their Summer Meeting, I’m pleased to share that we were recognized through the 2017 annual Mayors’ Climate Protection Award Program. Specifically, receiving the Small City-Honorable Mention Award for our River Riders Bike Share program. The award was presented at the Climate Awards Luncheon on June 23, during the Conference of Mayors’ annual gathering in Miami.

Now in its third year, River Riders Bike Share makes more than 20 community-donated bikes available for checkout by riders at Hotel Mead, the Wood County Health Department, South Wood County YMCA-Wisconsin Rapids and West Grand IGA. Cyclists can check out bikes at no cost, for up to 24 hours. A bike can be returned to any of the locations, regardless of where it was first checked out.

Thus far, River Riders Bike Share has been a tremendous success. During the first two summer seasons of 2015 and 2016, more than 500 bike checkouts were recorded.

River Riders Bike Share is empowering people to re-think how they get from point A to point B; how can we change a car-centric rural community into one that promotes bicycling; a healthier, non-polluting mode of transportation. The bike share program was originally  designed with recreation in mind; however, the primary use of bikes by riders is transportation, an unintended benefit of the program. River Rider bikes have been most commonly used for; short grocery shopping trips, job searches, recreational purposes, work release programs, and visitors looking to explore the area!

Just as important, the conception and growth of the program points to the spirit of community and collaboration that makes ours such a unique and inviting area. River Riders was born through a collaborative community effort under the Healthy People Wood County Coalition; Recreate Health. Planning, implementation and evaluation was done by staff from multiple partner organizations, including; Wood County Health Department, Incourage, City of Wisconsin Rapids, civic organizations, and community volunteers.  

River Riders Bike Share is now it’s third year and continues to see increasing numbers of riders utilizing the program. “Our committee is planning for the future; we’re putting together plans to see if it is feasible to bring a more robust system to Wisconsin Rapids; something you would find in a larger city, but catered towards our rural community.” (Sarah Salewski, Wood County Health Department, Healthy People Wood County Recreate Health Coalition).

The award recognition by the U.S. Conference of Mayors heightens the profile of Wisconsin Rapids as a forward-thinking community, whose citizens are actively engaged in promoting a healthy and sustainable environment in which to live, work and play.

This is the 11th year for the Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards, in conjunction with the 2005 Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, to which more than 1,000 U.S. mayors have signed. Under the agreement, signatories vow to reduce carbon emissions in their respective cities below 1990 levels, in line with the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Ten awards are given out, with five for large city winners and five for small city winners.

Free Access to Wi-Fi Now Available in Downtown Parks

A potentially important element in our menu of initiatives designed to spotlight our city’s Riverfront and Downtown districts is now “Live”.  That is when the Wisconsin Rapids City Council approved a 12-month trial agreement with Solarus to provide wireless Internet services at Veterans Memorial and Mead View parks. As a result, residents are now able to access the Internet along the river from the Wood Trust building to the clock tower.

This creative government-business partnership recognizes the key role online communications can play in powering a connection to the heart of the City and driving community inclusiveness. Veterans Memorial and Mead View parks are scenic public spaces just steps away from Downtown-area businesses, and are popular gathering spots for people who come out to take in events such as Lunch by the River and our upcoming Fourth of July fireworks celebration.

During the one-year trial, Solarus Media Shower subscribers who visit the parks can gain free, unlimited access by logging into Wi-Fi with their account email and password. Non-subscribers will be able to access the Internet once a week for a free, 30-minute session, and then choose from a menu of options to purchase more Internet services.

Solarus is providing this Wi-Fi service at no cost to the City. As part of the trial, Solarus & the City will survey individuals who used the service to better understand preferences and feedback. City leaders and Solarus will then determine the size of the audience for this service and any changes that may be required.

In the meantime, we invite you to stay connected with free Wi-Fi in the parks for yourself.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink