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

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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

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Community Update – Summer fun coming to a close

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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 www.wirapids.org 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

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Community Update – Waterfront Design Presentation, Community Picnic, “Raft the Wisconsin,” and Northwoods League All-Star Game Recap

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Waterfront Preliminary Design Presentation

I am again excited to invite residents to continue to guide the future of the Wisconsin Rapids waterfront, this Wednesday evening. That is when Supermass Studio design team-lead Taewook Cha presents the refined concepts for open spaces along the Wisconsin River. This event will take place Wednesday, August 5, at Veterans Memorial Park at 8:30 p.m. Bring a blanket or a chair!

The concepts that will be presented have been developed from feedback received on the initial concepts presented at Lunch by the River in early July. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A and feedback session.

Our goal is to further guide the preliminary design toward an outcome that will best serve the community at large. Please join us!

Aug 5 Evening Presentation Invite

Join your neighbors for the Community Picnic

Also returning this Wednesday evening is an outstanding tradition begun by Incourage Community Foundationcommunity picnic. That’s when the fourth annual Community Picnic takes place, from 4:30 to 8:00 p.m., adjacent to the Tribune Building, at the intersection of 1st Avenue S. and Johnson Street in Downtown Wisconsin Rapids. Residents of all ages can enjoy delicious food, live music – and a petting zoo!

It has been extremely gratifying to see this event grow and evolve each year. Even more heartening has been the donations of time, money and other forms of support by so many citizen-volunteers and local businesses making it truly a “community” picnic.

The Community Picnic provides a wonderful time for area residents to gather and enjoy being together in a celebration of our community. I look forward to seeing you there. 

“Raft the Wisconsin” Race

Join me for the first ever “Raft the Wisconsin” Race where I will be paddling and running with others this Saturday morning, August 8.

Beginning from the Tribune Building, individual competitors will paddle a raft across to the east side of the river, and finish by running the rest of the distance to the Witter Field. Winners will be recognized on-field prior to the Rafters game that evening. The race begins at 10:00 a.m.

Rosco-Rafting-There is a $10 entry fee. which includes a raft and paddles for the race, a Rafters hat, a ticket to that evening’s Rafters game, a guaranteed Rosco Rafting Bobblehead and post-race snacks at the stadium.

Please join me Saturday morning to participate in this fun event! You can register by emailing info@raftersbaseball.com. 

Kudos to an All-Star-caliber community

All-Star-Game-2011-250x187On Tuesday, July 21, Wisconsin Rapids hosted the Northwoods League All-Star Game at Witter Field. It was another memorable and festive occasion, highlighted by a free-swinging Home Run Challenge, an exciting nine innings of high-level collegiate-star baseball and the energy generated by a stadium- capacity turnout. The selection of our City to host this event for the second time all-star-logo_finalin just the past few years is a tribute to the outstanding job done by the management and staff of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters baseball organization, City partnership and sponsors; the outpouring of support our community of enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans has displayed for our local team; and the warm and cordial reception our residents extend to the many visitors who attend these events. Congratulations to our community for again hitting a home run in hosting another successful All Star Game!

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – State Recognition/Assistance for City’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative

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Wisconsin Rapids Welcomed into State’s Downtown Revitalization Program

wedcBack in January of 2014, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) took note of the important role that downtowns and historic commercial districts play in their communities, and in Wisconsin’s overall economy. They also understood the significance the “Main Street” program has played in Wisconsin communities since its inception in 1987. But in our case and others, taking on the full fledged responsibilities of the Main Street program is a feat. As a result, WEDC developed the Connect Communities Program as way to provide local civic leaders with access to resources and networking opportunities to start and maintain a district revitalization effort. A pathway, of sorts, to becoming primed for participation in the Main Street program. Since the program launched, participating communities have reported adding 175 net new businesses and more than 500 jobs, as well as $30 million in private investment.

I am pleased to report that WEDC today officially recognized the City of Wisconsin Rapids as just one of 18 communities around the state to be accepted into the Connect Communities Program this year. Applicants for this recognition were tasked with explaining the type of activities or assistance that they hope to undertake, as well as identify a local team that will be responsible for carrying out activities and participating in program events and training.

Among items presented to WEDC, Wisconsin Rapids shared details of the initiative under way LBTRto develop preliminary designs for enhancements to public spaces along the urban section of Riverbank. Residents were able to view early design concepts and alternatives at Lunch by the River on July 2.

The Connect Communities initiative goes beyond mere lip service. It provides Wisconsin Rapids with access to a variety of resources and training, including:

  • A Network to get new ideas from staff and other participating Connect Communities;
  • On-site visits from WEDC Community Development staff to assist in identifying needs and offering assistance;
  • Training opportunities for leadership and staff; and
  • Access to WEDC’s downtown development online library, and to specially developed resources and training materials.

We are proud that Wisconsin Rapids has been selected by the Connect Communities Program. This designation validates the vision shaped by years of local support – from the planning of civic leaders from years past down to our present day, to the interest and suggestions of everyday community residents. With continued engagement from our citizens, our involvement with Connect Communities will help us to leverage the unique assets of our Downtown Riverbank district.

Reinventing Our Future – The Time Is Now

Our City’s selection for inclusion in the State’s Connect Communities Program reaffirms points I made in an op-ed Column published last Saturday in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, regarding the importance of reinvigorating our City’s Riverbank area. (The Column will also appear in this weekend’s edition of the Wisconsin Rapids City Times).

In this article, I detailed the ways in which Wisconsin Rapids has begun a public effort to river2recognize and identify the potential return on public investments in one of our most precious resources – the Wisconsin River.  These initiatives included developing preliminary designs for enhancements to our public spaces along the urban section of Riverbank; and developing specifications and attaching cost estimates to some of the already identified. planned and resident-inspired improvements.  In a few short weeks, we will again engage with our consultant as they further define the preliminary designs of the public waterfront.

As mentioned in my 2015 State of the City Address this past February, the time is now for the city to reinvent the place we live, work, dine and entertain … and to reimagine and transform our local economy into one that is more diverse, and continuously attracts investment and talented, entrepreneurial people.

To read the full text of my op-ed piece, please follow this link

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – Put Your Business on the Map!

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Put Your Business on the Map … with Google

PYBOMIt is estimated that businesses that are online are expected to grow 40 percent faster than businesses that are not online.  That is why, early in 2014, the City of Wisconsin Rapids began working with Google on “Get Your Business Online.”  This initiative was designed to make it fast, easy and free for local businesses to spread the word about their businesses, by getting listed on an online search engine.

Now, I am pleased to announce that we are again collaborating with Google to help local business owners, through “Put Your Business on the Map.”

“Put Your Business on the Map” is designed to help local businesses increase their presence online with a variety of resources, including online listings and website creation services – all, available at no cost.

To get started, you just need to create an online listing and verify your business with Google by visiting gybo.com.  Or, you can call City Hall.

Being online helps increases your visibility, which helps to ensure business growth and competitiveness.  We believe all of our local businesses here in Wisconsin Rapids should be found online.  “Get Your Business on the Map” is designed to help strengthen our community, by connecting local businesses and customers so they can easily support each other.

Join us, as we work to get every Wisconsin Rapids business online and seen by the world.  Let us help you “Put Your Business on the Map”! 

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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Community Update – Riverbank Preliminary Designs

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Riverbank Project Preview at Lunch by the River

Last Thursday, attendees to Lunch by the River had the great and fun opportunity to view several preliminary designs for our riverbank open spaces, as presented by Supermass Studio, the City’s riverfront design consultant.
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The displays included the overall programming and planning framework of the riverbank park Supermassareas between Wisconsin Rapids dam and Riverview Expressway; as well as more detailed conceptual designs of Legion Park, Mead Rapids View Park, Veterans Memorial Park, and the west riverbank south of the Grand Avenue bridge area. Supermass representatives were on hand to offer project updates take your feedback and answer your questions. My favorite, the ‘Performance Knoll’ at Legion park where larger concerts could be held throughout the summer. It is also neat to see an alternative to that concept, a take on the city’s first swimming pool! The hammock grove was unique and could be a fun addition to our riverfront space!

You can view all the design boards here.  We are also welcoming your feedback! Comment below, on Facebook or by contacting myself or Planning & Economic Development Director Adam Tegen.

Thanks for reading,

Mayor Zach Vruwink

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