Mayor’s Youth Council Aquatics Survey Results, New Media Studio opens at McMillan Memorial Library



Mayor’s Youth Council Aquatics Survey Results

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 5.45.30 AMOne of my proudest moments as Mayor of Wisconsin Rapids was the formation of the Mayor’s Youth Council in 2015. The Youth Council is a way to get young people from Lincoln, Assumption, and East Junior high schools to take ownership of their community’s future by getting involved in City government and planning neighborhood projects, such as the ”Kids to Park Day” event held this past June 18. Kids to Park Day, associated with National Park Trust and the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative, was an event held to encourage kids and families to get out to local or national parks and play. This year was record breaking with over 1,100 events taking place across all 50 states.

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 2.59.07 PMThe Mayor’s Youth Council also recently reached out to area youth  with a survey to get their perspective on a pressing community issue: aquatics. The survey reached a total of 515 students, ranging from 13 to 18 years of age and from ninth to twelfth grades.

Major findings show:

  • 87 percent of survey respondents thought it was an “excellent” or “very good” idea to build a new pool to replace Mead Pool.
  • 87 percent thought is was “very likely “ or “somewhat likely” they would use an indoor aquatics facility.
  • 81 percent felt that way about an outdoor facility; and• Given a choice of facility locations, a substantial majority of 63 percent chose a location at Witter Field.

In addition, the young respondents voted by percentages of more than 70 percent in favor of facility features such as a wave pool/machine, slides, diving boards and concessions. By conducting this survey of their peers, the Mayor’s Youth Council has again demonstrated how our area’s young people can play a vital role in shaping a vibrant future for our community.

Survey results here.

New Media Studio opens at McMillan Memorial Library with Ribbon Cutting

Digital Lab

Libraries are more than just a place to read books and magazines, they provide for new and exciting technical opportunities for all ages.  McMillan Memorial Library, recently opened their new Media Lab, that represents a huge leap forward in inspiring area residents of all ages to become more familiar with technology and, ultimately, more creative in using its tools for personal expression, career development and community involvement.

Ribbon Cuttling libraryResidents celebrated the grand opening at a ribbon cutting celebration that took place on on June 15. The Media Lab is a “geek’s” paradise, with digital video and photography equipment, 3-D printers, scanners, a green screen, and a sound studio, among many other state-of-the-art features for creative expression. The space is free to use and open to the public. The only charges are
costs for anything printed through the photo printer, 3-D printing or film.

McMillan Memorial Library Assistant Director Brian Kopetsky has been a prime influence on conception and ongoing growth of the studio; he applied for and received partial funding from a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and oversees its operation.

In addition, Tom Loucks, coordinator for River Cities Community Access Media, a Department  of the City, is on the steering committee for the Lab, and has signed on as an instructor for children, teens and adults who are willing to learn more about video and post-production techniques. One goal is to encourage more people to get involved in their community by getting out and possibly filming these events.  

The McMillan Memorial Library Media Lab provides a source of expression that is unique so be sure to check it out!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink



Supermass to present near-final preliminary riverfront designs at City Hall on Tuesday



Supermass to present near-final preliminary design at City Hall on Tuesday

1_Page_51The Wisconsin Rapids Riverfront design initiative reaches another exciting stage this week.  Our design consultant, Supermass Studio, will make its near-final preliminary design presentation to the Wisconsin Rapids Common Council on Tuesday, September 15, at 6:00 p.m. This phase of the design process comes at a timely juncture, as federal, state, community and foundation interests, along with individual citizens, have all taken an active role in advancing the present-day concept of Downtown riverfront redevelopment:

On August 19, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin proposed the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act to support local efforts to revive waterfronts by funding grants and extending preferred status in other federal grants and loans;   

Veterans Event Terrace & River DeckOn August 31, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and representatives of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation joined me, other local officials and representatives from Incourage Community Foundation to announce the awarding of a $472,000 grant to the City of Wisconsin Rapids to help fund the renovation of the Tribune building site. 

In keeping with the note of urgency area I struck in my State of the City Address regarding the fostering of a vibrant Downtown area, our strategic plan of action has been marked by the review and implementation of new and previously proposed development concepts; a groundswell of private investments; and City property sales transactions.

All in all, these initiatives and proposals reinforce our shared vision of a Downtown waterfront district that shines as a commercial-residential-recreation destination.  I personally invite you to attend Tuesday evening’s Common Council meeting to view the latest development in achieving this vision.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Summer fun coming to a close



Park & Recreation summer fun coming to a close, with fall programs just around the corner;

The City of Wisconsin Rapids Park & Recreation Department’s summer season is quickly winding down, as Mead Pool closes Thursday, August 20, while the Municipal Zoo closes Sunday, August 23.

But if one (or more!) of your “family members” is a canine, you can still experience Mead Pool this Friday, August 21, for Doggie Daze. Residents can bring their dogs – with up-to-date vaccinations and who meet other requirements – to romp in the pool for one final family-oriented splash.

But even as the summer season comes to an end, Park & Rec offers a full slate of activities for the fall, with registration beginning online or in person on August 24.

Register online for fall Parks and Recreation programs.Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 1.44.41 PM

Programs include tumbling classes for children ages 2-9, soccer for children ages 3-7 and tennis lessons for children ages 4-10; along with co-recreational adult and men’s volleyball leagues.

Two unique programs that promise to be a lot of fun are Nerf Wars, a “soft” combat competition for young people ages 7-14; and Pickleball, a fast-growing – and fast-moving – sport that combines, badminton, ping-pong and racquetball.

Residents can also look forward to two special events: the Great Pumpkin Hunt on October 29; and, just in time for the holidays, cupcake decorating classes for all “kids” ages 7 through adult.

Park & Recreation programs are also about promoting youth-development skills. The always-popular Red Cross babysitting certification classes for young people ages 11 and older return in October.

Take time to visit the Park & Recreation website or call 715-421-8240, starting August 24, to get full details on how you can register for these activities!

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – Streets & Park Enhancements and Tree Planting Event



Over the past couple weeks, you may have noticed one of several enhancements being made around the City.  These enhancements are related to a concept I’ve referred to as the 3rd Space – 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, a skatepark and over 100 acres of City parks.  What we have, we can further build on to make our City a more attractive place to visitors and residents.  This week’s Community Update highlights some of the recent, and upcoming projects around the City:

New Playground Equipment in Poplar Springs

With existing playground equipment at Poplar Springs Park past its useful life, the Park and Recreation IMG_0574Commission made a decision earlier this summer to proceed with purchasing and installing new playground equipment.  Last week, installation of new playground equipment took place at Poplar Springs park- a marked improvement in equipment compared to what had been previously installed at the park!  With the equipment in place, finishing steps still remain for the area around the perimeter of the equipment, and in a previous Community Update, I mentioned plans to work with a neighborhood volunteer group for some of these finishing elements.

Weather permitting, these steps should be completed in time for our residents to enjoy the equipment this fall.  I will be sure to update everyone on the anticipated completion date (and celebration event) when a date is established.

Bike Lanes

bikelaneOne of the more subtle enhancements over the past few weeks has been the addition of bike lanes to roads around the City.  So far this year, bike lanes have been painted on 1st Street South, Gaynor Ave. (from 25th Ave. to the bike trail) and Baker St. (from 5th to 16th St.).  Part of the complete streets program, new marked trails are proposed along 32nd St., and various ‘shared bike lanes’ are proposed to connect existing bike paths and parks within the City.

As one of many avid bikers myself, I have experienced firsthand, in our City and Cities throughout the country, the various benefits that bike lanes on City’s streets can serve both to motor vehicle drivers and bike riders.  Bike lanes can transform the bicycle riding experience by improving our City’s streetscape, encouraging active and healthy activity, and contribute to a sense of community.  Of course, these lanes are critical for the improved safety of cyclists; they help get bikes and cars out of each others way.  But they also provide significant benefits for the livability of our city- the mobility and health of our residents and support our ongoing pursuit of environmental sustainability.

One of my priorities as Mayor has been to enhance the livability of our community, as well as to work towards providing a coherent and connected bike and trail system.  The planning and development of bicycle lanes are a crucial component of our City’s transportation infrastructure as well as an interconnected bike system within our community and connecting to other communities.  Finally, the timing of our focus on bicycle safety and solutions for an interconnected bicycle system couldn’t be better for the launch of the River Riders bike share program.(click for more info)  Having an interconnected bike lane system will ensure cyclist safety in getting between points and to their destination.  I am pleased our city has acted to improve the safety of those who choose alternative modes of transportation. Signage and a further explanation of the street markings to come.

Beautification Meeting and Tree Planting Event

The next meeting of the Mayor’s Council on Beautification is planned to be held this Thursday, September 18 at 4:30PM, in the first floor conference room in City Hall.  This Thursday’s meeting will include a recap of the flowering basket initiative and planning for future projects to take part in beautifying our City.  One such project is a tree planting event, taking place Saturday, October 4.  Planned to begin at 10:30AM, the tree planting event will include volunteers planting trees on 1st Street, at Mead Rapids View Park.  The event will be a bridge between the Mayor’s Council on Beautification and an upcoming Mayor’s Youth Council, planned for launch this fall.  All are invited to help volunteer with the tree planting event.  If you are interested in participating and would like to receive further details related to the event, please contact me.  Hope to see you there!

The intent and focus of the Mayor’s Council on Beautification is to be resident-led, action-oriented in identifying potential projects, working to secure project funding from alternative sources and subsequently score and prioritize projects all the while, making our city a more attractive place for our current and future residents and businesses. After all, businesses invest in communities that invest in themselves and their appearance.  If you’re interested in participating in future meetings, please contact me to be added to the contact list or feel free to attend future meetings, scheduled to be held the third Thursday of every month at 4:30PM.

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Social Media, Chickens, and Street Opening



Social Media Policy and Chicken Ordinance            

At last Tuesday’s June City Council meeting, among regular city business, the Council discussed and decided on items related to the use of technology to communicate and the keeping of chickens.

The City Council voted to adopt a Social Media Policy to govern the city’s use of Social Media to communicate.  This policy is of particular significance, as it has been something that my office, with our then Social Media Intern, and City Department Heads have spent many months working on to fit our organization. Second, as a Mayor who prioritizes technology and the role it can play in providing an additional means of communication with constituents, I also recognize the challenges that can come with it, and the need for adopting a policy that uses overall best practices as well as addresses concerns that may exist with introducing an additional medium of communication within the City.  I commend the City Council and City staff for their recognition and approval to adopt modern and expanded ways of reaching and communicating with residents!

Now that the Social Media Policy has passed, our plans are to use social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to provide the public with additional information and foster a conversation about what is happening in the City.  Progress has already begun, with the creation of a City of Wisconsin Rapids Facebook Page, as well as a City of Wisconsin Rapids LinkedIN page.  Additional City departments will soon be communicating on one or both of these mediums, so be sure to visit and “Like” the pages for updates!

City Council also discussed and took the preliminary steps required to adopt a City ordinance that allows City residents living in one and two family homes to raise chickens within City limits.  Since the vote was not unanimous, the ordinance will come back next month to Council for a ‘second reading’ and vote.  If you have any questions or concerns, or just want to learn more about this issue or others, I encourage you to contact the Citizens for a Clean Green and Welcoming Community, who have been coordinating the effort to bring this ordinance to Wisconsin Rapids.

To view this and other recorded City meetings, please visit RCCA’s YouTube channel.

Beautification Update 

treeplanting1Last Thursday, members of the Mayor’s Council on Beautification joined residents from the community in holding a “Flowering Tree Planting Event” aimed at planting flowering crab trees along the Riverbanks in areas that previously featured them.

Previously, “Hopa” trees have had a long history in Wisconsin Rapids.  Last Thursday’s event was not only significant for the City’s efforts to renew its commitment as a Tree City USA, but was also meant to revisit the work started by the late Richard Brazeau, when 4,000 flowering trees were planted in 1965 and the “Hopa” Tree Festival began.  As of late, only a small number of the original “Hopa” trees remain along the river, but events like the one held last week aim to change that- with plans to continue planting the flowering trees in the coming years.  To view an article published in the Daily Tribune covering the event, click here.treeplanting2

I am proud of the resident-led work being done by the Mayor’s Council on Beautification.  If you’re interested in participating in future meetings, please contact me to be added to the contact list or feel free to attend future meetings, held the third Thursday of every month at 4:30PM.

United We Can Event

unitedwecan1Last Monday, city management and I had the pleasure of participating in the South Wood County Hunger Coalition’s United We Can- “Strike Out Hunger” event held at Witter Field.   “United We Can” is a contest for a cause, inviting participating groups to compete to build the most creative and visually captivating sculptures out of basic-needs and food items.  The sculptures were on display for attendees of the Rafter’s game that evening and all items used were then distributed to area food programs.  Our City Team pulled together and formed a can sculpture displaying our City Logo.

unitedwecanriverviewIn all, 14 teams participated in this year’s event and over 4,000 items were collected for distribution to the Wisconsin Rapids Family Center, Inc., Rapids Family Backpacks and SWEPS!  Recognition awards were given in several categories including most creative, most nutritious and a community choice category.  The award for “Most Nutritious” went to the Riverview Medical Center Team. “Most Creative” AND “Community Choice” went to the Paper City Savings Team.  Congrats to all the winners.  Our City team already has big ideas for next year!

The South Wood County Hunger Coalition is an initiative of the United Way of Inner Wisconsinunitedwecanpapercities.  The coalition consists of local food providers, community programs and community members who are concerned about hunger issues.  The coalition works together towards a common goal- fighting hunger in our community.  The Coalition has working committees in the areas of healthy foods access, outreach, advocacy and education, and food acquisition and distribution.  Visit for more information on the South Wood County Hunger Coalition initiative and how you can get involved in stamping out hunger

Street Opening

This week, prior to heading to Lunch by the River, join us for the Ribbon Cutting to mark the official opening of the First Street/Roundabout project. The event takes place near the Courthouse at Market Street at 11:30 AM, Thursday, June 26th!.

Pizza With the Mayor

Earlier this year, I launched Coffee with the Mayor. Each of the coffee sessions have been terrific, with great questions posed and excellent suggestions made, many of which I have taken back to the office! Meeting residents in comfortable, friendly locations has been a great experience and I’m looking forward to hosting these and similar sessions. While I plan to rotate Coffee locations and times, at the suggestion of many, I am going to launch another variation, in the evening, dubbed Pizza with the Mayor on Wednesday, July 2nd from 5:30-6:30pm at the Ridges. All are welcome..

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach


Community Update – Chickens, Blossom Fest, Trees and Street Re-Opening



Raising Chickens In Wisconsin Rapids            

Earlier this month, at the request of residents, the City took the first step to consider an ordinance allowing residents to raise chickens within City limits.  The recommendation  from the Finance and Property committee will go to City Council this evening for full Council consideration and possible adoption.

Residential-chicken ordinances are not unique just to rural areas.  As the multitude of sites dedicated to City-raised chickens demonstrate, both rural and urban municipalities have seen a movement toward raising chickens for pets, food and even keeping bugs at bay.  In Wisconsin, the City of Milwaukee has adopted an ordinance allowing the keeping of up to 4 chickens per residential premises.  More locally, Nekoosa and Stevens Point also have ordinances allowing residential raising of chickens.  Although there are questions and concerns surrounding invoking such an ordinance, many of these concerns are alleviated with rules around care, coop regulation and design and ultimately effective city ordinance enforcement.

If you have any questions or concerns, or just want to learn more, I encourage you to contact the Citizens for a Clean Green and Welcoming Community, who have been coordinating the effort to bring this ordinance to Wisconsin Rapids.

Blossom Fest 

blossomfestThis Thursday marks the start of the 2014 Cranberry Blossom Festival!  Set to run June 19-22 and feature more than 20 events including live music, cranberry blossom tours, culinary treats and our parade. This year’s Blossom Fest is sure to have something for everyone.  Some of the featured events taking place during blossom fest include:

  • Downtown Classic Cinema Under the Stars– Thursday 6/19 @ 7:30PM on West Grand Avenue
    • Family, friends and kids of all ages can enjoy a free movie under the stars.
  • June Dairy & Berry Breakfast– Friday 6/20 @ 6:00-10:30AM at LHS
    • Held at Lincoln High School, enjoy a dairy breakfast with cranberry flair, and the chance to take a dairy farm tour.
  • Arts, Crafts and Cranberries Fair– Saturday 6/21 @ 10:00AM-4:00PM, Witter Field
    • This outdoor event features crafts, framed art, pottery and many cranberry themed products, sure to have something to interest everyone.
  • Cranberry Blossom Festival Carnival– Beginning Friday, Witter Field
    • The carnival comes back again this year!  Throughout the weekend, adults, families and kids of all ages can enjoy carnival rides, games and food at the Cranberry Blossom Carnival at Witter Field.
  • Cranberry Blossom Fest Parade– Sunday 6/22 @ 12:00PM, Downtown
    • The weekend events come to an end with the grand Cranberry Blossom Fest Parade along Grand Avenue.

I look forward to seeing you June 19-22.  Visit for full details on all the events taking place during the event.

Hopa Tree Planting/Beautification Council

Over the last few months, residents have been meeting for the Mayor’s Council on Beautification.  The meetings have been highly productive, with a great turnout of residents; with several projects already underway!  Driving by City entrances as well as along West Grand Avenue, you may have seen the long planters placed with flowers adding a touch of color to our streetscape.

flowerbasketsWe also saw inspiring momentum with the hanging flower basket project, led by members of the Beautification Council, which includes hanging 36 planters on lampposts along West Grand Ave. from City Hall to 2nd Street, as well as along 1st and Oak streets.  The “hanging baskets” project has seen community involvement through an “adopt a basket” component (with all of the baskets already committed!) and volunteers taking part in the watering of the baskets.  The baskets are up already along West Grand Avenue, and will be installed along 1st and Oak Streets, with the goal of coinciding with Blossom Fest.  If you or someone you know would like to be involved with the project, please call or email my office to be put in contact with the project coordinators.

The next event for the Mayor’s Council on Beautification includes planting flowering Trees along hopathe river, where Hopa Trees previously lined the river.  This Thursday, June 19 at 4:30PM, a tree planting event is set to take place at the intersection of 1st Street S. and Johnson Street (near the Tribune Building).  A shortened Beautification meeting will follow shortly after.  This Thursday’s event and meeting will be an excellent chance to learn more about future planned projects and take part in beautifying our City.  We hope to see you there!

The intent and focus of the Mayor’s Council on Beautification is to be resident-led, action-oriented in identifying potential projects, working to secure project funding from alternative sources and subsequently score and prioritize projects all the while, making our city a more attractive place for our current and future residents and businesses. After all, businesses locate in communities that invest in themselves and their appearance. Further, I am proud to see another example of resident-led engagement, this time in beautifying our City.  If you’re interested in participating in future meetings, please contact me to be added to the contact list or feel free to attend future meetings, held the third Thursday of every month at 4:30PM.

Roundabout Ribbon Cutting

In my last Community Update, I gave an update on City construction projects happening or yet to happen in our city.  One of the projects highlighted as “near completed” was the roundabout construction by the Courthouse.  I am happy to announce that construction is complete and the area is set to reopen shortly.  A ribbon cutting is planned for Thursday, June 26th at 11:30AM  to commemorate the completion of the project. The traffic flow will be smoother, a recreational trail will enhance its connectivity and street surface will be new again. This intersection serves as the gateway to our waterfront area and am pleased there are plans to make it more attractive upon the street’s reopening!

Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink


Community Update – City Pool, Bicycle Routes, and Modern Issues



City Pool Opening & Challenges            

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith school out and sunny days the norm, many residents are excited for the opening of our City’s pool.  Mead Pool is set to open this Wednesday, June 11 at noon.  Although the pool is opening on time, this year’s opening didn’t come without significant challenges.

Constructed in 1978, Mead pool is now 36 years old and pushing the usable life for a pool of its kind in Wisconsin.  As a rule of thumb, the typical life of a tank capacity outdoor pool in our area is around 30 years.  For Mead Pool, extending beyond the useful life of the pool has presented us with challenges with water pressure, draining and deck conditions- requiring repairs that can become costly to complete to bring the pool to a functional state.

With the age of the pool and demands of unforeseen repairs to an asset that has gone beyond poolits anticipated service life, although we can continue to buy time, a permanent solution must be found.  Earlier this year at my State of the City Address, it was reported that the City is exploring how we might find a solution by working with community partners who have an interest in developing, and possibly fundraising for such a project.  We can all agree, we need a sustainable model- one that is more cost effective and one that demonstrates fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer and its contributors.

In the near future, I will be forming an Ad-Hoc committee to understand the usage of our current pool offering and explore alternatives. This Ad-Hoc committee will consist of Alderpersons, Park & Recreation Commission members and city staff. As this committee moves through the process, I expect an opportunity for public involvement.  Further, it was reported last week our neighbors in the Village of Port Edwards question whether this may be the final summer of their current municipal pool.  Might the current state of our municipal pools warrant a collaborative solution? Maybe so.

It is my position that we have a significant opportunity to improve the quality of life through such a project for not only our city but our region. I commit to continued participation in the dialogue until a position solution benefiting all of our residents is reached.  Until then, we are happy to announce that the pool repairs are completed and residents can once again enjoy the pool during those hot months.  Information relating to Mead Pool hours and dates of operation can be found here.

Proposed Bike Routes 

Last month, I gave an overview of the Complete Streets” concept in my Community Update.   Complete Streets is a term used to describe roadways that are designed and operated to enable safe, convenient and comfortable access and travel for all users of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.  Although we have over 20 miles of trails designated throughout our City, the connectedness of those trails is lacking and ripe for improvement.

Last week, the Parks & Recreation Commission voted to approve enhancements to our bike path network that would allow for bike routes to parks and schools as well as provide access to share right-of-ways on designated streets within the City.  This decision furthered last month’s recommendation and brings our City one step closer to a broader “Complete Streets” program.

I am pleased with the progress the Parks & Recreation Commission has made in advancing the Complete Streets concept here in the City of Wisconsin Rapids.  The bike routes proposal will now go to Public Works for approval at next month’s meeting.  As an avid biker, I join the many residents who are excited about the further development and interconnectedness of our City’s bike/trail system.

Modern Issues Expo

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining community leaders to observe the Modern Issues Expo at LHS.  The expo featured students in World Issues classes performing a project based assessment on a modern global issue, finding creative ways to raise community awareness.

Some of the issues identified included world hunger, LGBT rights, police brutality, and animal rights.  I was impressed with students’ ingenuity in tying in modern technology with community awareness of global issues.  From creating a song or a board game, to designing merchandise that raises awareness, students utilized modern channels of distribution in getting the word out about their respective global issues.

Blossom Fest

blossomfestNext week Thursday begins the annual Blossom Fest event. Yes, the carnival will return on Friday. The June Dairy and Berry Breakfast takes place Friday morning and Sunday is the annual parade! Full event details can be found by visiting


Thank you for reading,

Mayor Zach