Group brings forward its desire to make the community the best it can be
By Star Journal staff
It started in the summer of 2014. A small group of community members began to talk. Talk about how they could provide support and bring energy to improvements in the Rhinelander area. Out of these initial conversations, Forward Rhinelander was formed.
“When I moved to Rhinelander a year and a half ago, and got to meet people, we realized many of us were having the same conversations,” said group member Melinda Childs. “We thought, why not get together, around one table and see what happens.”
This small group of community members began meeting with cross-sections of Rhinelander residents as well as city officials to discuss long-range planning and goals for the city. One-on-one listening sessions were held over the course of a year to understand what residents like about living in Rhinelander and what they would like to see improved.
According to a press release from Forward Rhinelander, “after approximately 40 interviews, a larger community meeting was held at city hall in the spring of 2015. At this meeting, participants envisioned what the future of Rhinelander could look like in areas such as housing, transportation, economic development, arts and culture, and workforce development. As a result of this meeting, the group began to take shape and was organized into subcommittees to focus on specific goals for both long-range planning and immediate action steps as informed by the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s Regional Livability Plan.”
The public group’s mission is to set a vision for the Rhinelander area over the next 20 years so that it may stay a competitive, vibrant, and enjoyable place to live, work, and play for all community members.
“Our goal is to support people in their initiatives and connect them with other with similar ideas,” Childs said. “We would be facilitating the crew, not steering the ship.”
Currently, Childs said, Forward Rhinelander engages with over 100 contacts representing a variety of industries from private business to not-for-profit organizations and addresses aspects of livability from beautification, recreation and entertainment to job retention, workforce development, and housing. The focus of the group is to advocate for positive change in the area, energize and support decision-makers at the local level, and to take the lead on initiatives that will directly benefit the Rhinelander community.
In the year since Forward Rhinelander started its efforts, the group has organized volunteers to form the Rhinelander Community Foundation, worked with the city to address outdated zoning laws, begun work on establishing an investment coop to revitalize dilapidated buildings, and seeks to help find a solution for the statewide school funding formula.
Forward Rhinelander will be hosting a series of community conversations at various locations around Rhinelander this spring to gather and share information. Visit www.forwardrhinelander.org for more information about these events and future meetings, as well as information for how you can get involved. Anyone interested in receiving Forward Rhinelander emails or have questions please email ForwardRhinelander@gmail.com.