Community Update: Young Professionals highlight local opportunity, Join Wisconsin Rapids Spring Clean 2.0 on May 13



Young Professionals highlight local opportunity

Wisconsin Rapids will join 26 other communities throughout the State of Wisconsin to focus on the future of our community, during Young Professionals Week, April 20-28.

Current , the vibrant Young Professionals organization in Wisconsin Rapids, invites area professionals of all ages and career stages to share experiences, viewpoints and aspirations through a variety of interactive learning and social events:

  • Multi Millions: Community Investment Panel will run from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, at the Wisconsin Rapids Elks Club, 430 W. Jackson Street. Panelists representing Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics, South Wood County YMCA, Wisconsin Rapids Area Boys & Girls Club, Incourage and the City of Wisconsin Rapids will provide an overview and answer questions about the multi-million dollar projects happening in our City.
  • Workout Wednesday, on Wednesday, April 25, will feature a morning yoga class at 7 a.m. and an evening workout at 7 p.m. at Limitless Bootcamp, 3110 48th Street N. in Grand Rapids.

YPWeek highlights the range of opportunities that are possible in our area and how young professionals can help to bring that future to life. I join with Current in inviting you to continue joining in to grow a sustainable environment for civic engagement and economic growth.

Join Wisconsin Rapids Spring Clean 2.0 on May 13

The City of Wisconsin Rapids and Current, our local Young Professionals organization, once again urge all residents, young and old, to help beautify our City’s neighborhoods, during the second annual Spring Clean event.

File photo – In 2017 the event took place in Downtown Wisconsin Rapids, but this year the event will stage outside Sportsman’s Pub & Grille, 4810 Eighth Street S.

Meet us this Sunday, May 13, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., outside Sportsman’s Pub & Grille, 4810 Eighth Street S., for a group photo and drink specials. Location assignments, garbage bags and gloves will be provided.

This is truly a total community event, for young and old. Adults and minors  can register to pitch in and help.

Do your part for to put a good “face” on our community … join Spring Clean 2.0!​

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Community Update: Discuss Triangle Project with prospective redevelopment partner, Police Department “Trunk or Treat” Offers Halloween Fun and Games



All invited to discuss Triangle Project with prospective redevelopment partner

Area residents and business owners are invited to learn about and discuss the residential/commercial space redevelopment opportunities at the Downtown Triangle site. Representatives from prospective developer Gorman & Company, Inc.  will join City officials to lead the conversation.

The event takes place today, Monday, October 23, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Karen’s Wines and Steins, 160 1st Street North.

Headquartered in the Madison-area Village of Oregon, Gorman & Company has worked since 1984 to specialize in downtown revitalization, the preservation of affordable housing, workforce housing and the adaptive reuse of significant historic buildings. Gorman redevelopment projects include partnerships with Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Madison, Portage, Sheboygan, Fond du Lac, Janesville and Wisconsin Dells.

The Triangle Area – located on the block bounded by 1st Street North (west and north), East Jackson Street (south) and Market Street (east) – serves as the northeast gateway to the Downtown Riverfront area, overlooking the Wisconsin River and our public park spaces. The initiative to redevelop this area was jumpstarted when the City 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, and cleared the buildings. The resulting space is ideally suited for a mixed-use development with underground parking. The potential exists for residential, office, retail, restaurant and other uses.

We are excited by this partnership opportunity with an experienced community revitalization partner. We welcome your presence and input regarding our shared vision of sustainable residential, commercial and retail redevelopment.

Police Department “Trunk or Treat” Offers Halloween Fun and Games

I encourage individuals, businesses and organizations to enjoy an evening of family fun, while also engaging with our local law enforcement community.

Wisconsin Rapids Police Department’s (WRPD) first “Trunk or Treat” event takes place on Tuesday, October 31, from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m., at the Rapids Mall Parking Lot (Farmers Market location).

Trunk or Treat is a way for “kids” of all ages to celebrate a safe Halloween, with games, contests and assorted treats handed out by participants who fill the trunks of their vehicles, decorated in fall splendor.

All are invited to show up in costume to share in the festive gathering, and there will be free hot dogs and chips for kids in costume. Awards will be given for best decorated car and best costume.

We also advise citizens to check out helpful tips for safe trick-or-treating from the WRPD Facebook page  and watch this video from Wisconsin Rapids Community Media (WRCM).

Halloween is a colorful and enjoyable occasion. Let’s work together to keep it safe.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Splash Pad Dedication at Mead Field Friday, Sept. 1



Splash Pad Dedication at Mead Field Friday, Sept. 1

Wisconsin Rapids is proud to mark the achievement of renewed family-friendly outdoor recreational amenities at Mead Field built on the west-side of the city. City leaders are planning to celebrate a soft opening and dedication at the newly constructed Mead Splash Pad on Friday, Sept. 1 at Noon.  A ribbon cutting and brief remarks will also take place during the event.

This is the first in many steps in providing family-friendly outdoor recreational facilities for residents, visitors and for future generations to come. We are also “Taking the Plunge” by fundraising for the Regional Aquatic Center at Witter Field. Our goal is to raise $7 million with corporate, individual and philanthropic donations in order to reach our $12 million goal for a 2019 opening. We encourage you to follow our progress at and make a donation to the project.

Earlier in this year, students from Mead Elementary Charter School held a planning session with City staff and the Mayor’s Youth Council to brainstorm and create the splash pads artistic design features .  The outcome of that session spurred the creations of a giant spider, flower, plant and a bullfrog, which is now placed in the center of the splash pad.

This project wouldn’t have come to fruition if it wasn’t for co-investment between the City and Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin who funded the $575,000 for the project.  We are grateful for their contribution and honored for their commitment to help make Wisconsin Rapids a fun destination for families to visit, and pleased that residents and visitors will be able to enjoy this new recreational experience free of charge.

While finishing touches and final testing is ongoing, a soft opening will occur next Friday. The aesthetic features like plantings, grass and other landscaping amenities around the site won’t be complete until later this fall, so we plan to hold a grand opening at the 2018 season opener.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

Community Update: Senate Budget Plan Includes $4 Million Dollar Airport Investment, AmeriCorps Needs A Leader to Serve Local Community Health Needs



Senate Budget Plan Includes $4 Million Dollar Airport Investment

Photo by Tom Loucks/WRCM – The State Senate budget transportation plan includes an investment of four million dollars for infrastructure enhancement and expansion at Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport.

Recently I had the privilege of joining State Senator Patrick Testin to announce a proposal that could very well usher in an era of renewed prosperity in our local community: The State Senate budget plan includes an investment of four million dollars for infrastructure enhancement and expansion at Alexander Field-South Wood County Airport.

Airport expansion would establish Alexander Field as a reliable transportation hub with convenient access to anywhere!. The accompanying increased traffic offers more opportunities for:

  • Potential investors to view our assets of natural beauty, affordable living and highly skilled labor force as solid reasons to build in the area;
  • Existing businesses to expand their operations;
  • Event planners to value our area as a prime venue for meetings and special activities; and
  • Stay-over tourists to visit for special events – such as the State Water Ski Show Championships, among many other opportunities.

Making a positive and lasting first impression on these visitors will help to ensure they want to continue to visit the area and patronize regional businesses, resulting in a considerable contribution to the regional economy.

Indeed, Sand Valley Golf Resort General Manager Glen Murray noted, “This is great news that our state officials see the significant value in continued infrastructure investment in Central Wisconsin and the airport. We are grateful for the partnership with Alexander Field and all those that are involved in this community asset.”

As chairman of the South Wood County Airport Commission, I have worked with fellow Commission members Arne Nystrom (Grand Rapids), Katie Martinson (Port Edwards) and Brad Hamilton (Nekoosa) for some time to seek funding for the airport. In the funding request submitted to the State in December of 2016, we emphasized the increased volume and size of aircraft we could expect in the near future and for some time to come from Sand Valley clients choosing private air travel as their means of access to central Wisconsin.

We also pointed out that, through thick and through thin, our community has made substantial investment over the years to support operation, maintenance and development of Alexander Field, viewing the airport as an essential feature for regional tourism, industry, public relations and economic development. The inclusion in the Senate’s budget plan of four million dollars for infrastructure improvements and expansion is a most positive step.

As Senator Testin observed, “This funding will help improve our infrastructure here in Wisconsin Rapids, and will be helpful for businesses and individuals in the region.”

I have enjoyed working with Senator Testin and Representative Scott Krug on this proposal. This project holds a lot of potential for central Wisconsin, and I am confident that the State Legislature and Governor Walker understand the importance of Alexander Field to our region and to the State’s economy as a whole.

AmeriCorps Needs A Leader to Serve Local Community Health Needs

AmeriCorps is seeking a very special person to improve the overall health of her/his community … while also gaining valuable work experience, developing sought-after job skills and enjoying career-building networking relationships.

As an AmeriCorps member, this individual will receive volunteer management training to recruit, train and supervise volunteers for Wood County Community Health Improvement Plan initiatives. Plan priorities include mental health, alcohol and other drugs, food systems, and achieving optimal health for youth and families.

The successful applicant will also create volunteer handbooks, application forms, and brochures; write position descriptions; and update website content and coordinate social media. The service period for this position extends from September 11, 2017 to August 31, 2018.

This is an opening for a person of college age, in particular, to create a record of community service and a vocational background coveted by potential employers.

Often viewed as a domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps places individuals with a wide range of local service programs that meet critical community needs. Marshfield Clinic Center for Community Outreach is a national service grantee, through which individuals are placed with nonprofits across Wisconsin. Nationwide, the program is supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations and other donors.

Find more application information here. You can also e-mail or, or call 715-421-8911.

Check out this opportunity today!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update: Alexander Field Hosts Events to Promote Aviation Awareness, Youth Lead Community in 4th of July Fireworks Fundraising



Alexander Field Hosts Events to Promote Aviation Awareness

The local Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter invites area residents and aviation buffs to its two annual “Flying Hamburger Socials”, on July 12 and August 9, at our South Wood County Airport-Alexander Field .

The Social travels throughout participating states each week between the months of June to August to promote aviation, increase public awareness of airport facilities and raise funds for the local EAA chapter. This marks the fifth year for “Flying Hamburger Socials” in Wisconsin, and the second year that the event has extended its reach to the states of Michigan and Minnesota.

In addition to potentially seeing an array of small aircraft descend upon Alexander Field, attendees can enjoy a meal that includes hamburgers, fixings, sides, salads, snacks and and drinks. The meal is usually served between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m., and donations are appreciated.

As our community attracts more travelers with attractions such as Sand Valley Golf Resort and special events like the Wisconsin State Water Ski Show Championship and Cranberry Harvest tours we value more and more the importance of having a facility such as Alexander Field right in our own backyard.

Show your appreciation, by being on hand for an evening of fun, food and flying!

Youth Lead Community in 4th of July Fireworks Fundraising

Photo by Jen Clark/Mayor’s Office – This group of students from the four area high schools contacted local groups and municipalities, asking individuals to contribute to help cover the fireworks cost of $18,000. They also raised another $2,000 during the fireworks event this year.

The call went out last month for donations to our annual Wisconsin Rapids Fourth of July fireworks spectacular … and our City responded with flying colors. This year, both residents and visitors from throughout the region were treated to a celebration of our nation’s freedoms, highlighted by an awesome display of pyrotechnics.

This is a tribute to our community as a whole, and to the tireless efforts of the Teen Fireworks CommitteeThis group of students from the four area high schools contacted local groups and municipalities, asking individuals to contribute to help cover the fireworks cost of $18,000. These young people never stopped – they even raised over $2,000 from the crowd on the night of the 4th!

As your Mayor, I am proud to be part of a community that generously gives of itself for a glorious  local tradition.  Many thanks to all those who were ‘on-duty’ working the event as well as those who volunteered their time!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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

Community Update: “Did You Know … ?” City Ordinance Enforcement Tip & Northern Steel Castings Statement



“Did You Know … ?” City Ordinance Enforcement Tip

Photo by Jesse Austin/WRCM
Vehicles can’t be parked on the grass by City ordinance.

Did you know … the City of Wisconsin Rapids has a Municipal Code section that deals with the parking of vehicles, trailers, and recreational vehicles?

Find out more, by visiting Chapter 11 in the ordinances section on the City website. 

This is one of a series of City ordinance updates I’ll be highlighting on a monthly basis throughout 2017. It’s designed to encourage all citizens to do what we can to help our Code Enforcement personnel protect the health, welfare and safety of our citizens.

If you have questions about this or other Municipal Codes, please contact your Wisconsin Rapids Code Enforcement Officer Ray Starks at 715-421-8229 or 715-421-8228.

SeeClickFix is available on a smartphone or a computer desktop to help citizens report issues within the city of Wisconsin Rapids.

In addition, I urge you to put SeeClickFix at your fingertips. This app offers a quick and easy way to report and track City response to possible ordinance-violations through online and mobile download. View the app in action, here. Be part of the solution!



Statement on Northern Steel Castings

Early this week unwelcome news broke related to the business operations of Northern Steel Castings. In December, a fire occurred at their Goggins Street, near Rapids Mall, facility. That situation had a serious negative impact to their business. Since then, they have performed extensive cleanup work and have restored electric and gas utilities to normal operation. Unfortunately, the impact sustained was substantial, and their employees were notified last week that the facility would not return to full operation.

Our thoughts go out to the 40 individuals and families who have been affected since the fire and the most recent determination to cease operations. I issued a statement to clarify facts surrounding the information contained in reports. Read here.

Growing our economy is a constant priority. Setbacks like these are tough to swallow. Nationally, the steel industry remains challenged and that includes operations such as those casters and foundry operators such as Northern Steel. I hope the new Administration continues to make good on their word to support American made industries and that includes those here.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink