Walking Up Main Street: Volunteers put the ‘frosting on the cake’
Our beloved “triangle” in downtown just got its frosting! Have you ever worked on a project that took three times longer than you planned or wanted?
That is the story with our “triangle” the piece of property across from Mel’s Trading Post on South Brown Street in our Downtown. This corner piece of vacant property was an eye-sore when I came to town over four years ago. Our design committee “adopted” it each Earth Day and did a special clean up. Volunteers would pick up the trash, rake out the dog poop and pick rocks. With no plan or funds, all we could do was tidy it up. Our Main Street Design Committee of volunteers then decided to go the next step.
We heard the tiny corner parcel (that we call the “triangle”) was categorized as an unbuildable piece of property, and was owned by a local church. We learned the church would be interested in selling it. The sale soon went through.
Our organization then contacted a wonderful Downtown business, Clements Landscape Architecture. Owner Terry Clements provided the design assistance. Terry’s plan was simple and effective. The plan offered a few trees and lilac bushes for color and some shade. The plan also included a winding walkway. We knew this was the perfect plan.
At the time Lisa Kuczmarski was the administrative assistant for the City of Rhinelander. She had received calls from citizens and companies that wanted to donate toward an Earth Day project. We connected, and last April volunteers planted the two deciduous trees and the lilac bushes. It was a great start. It was a dry summer, and so a few very special people took on watering.
We still didn’t have the walkway in. Our Design Committee pushed our board to approve the financing of the red granite walkway. We hired Mark Felder, who worked with our limited budget and completed the work last fall.
One more tree was donated by Jessica Southworth Bates of Janesville and her family in honor of their parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Four students from the after-school program at Nativity Catholic School planted the beautiful evergreen tree last November.
We’re inching closer to completion…
Now all that was left to do was the installation of the mulch material. Kim Swisher from the school district and I agreed we would collaborate and get a group of students to do this work. It was all set to happen April 17, and then the weather became winter-like! It was snowing and cold, and so the work day was canceled. But in just one email, we landed the students of NCSS. Kristin Larsen responded and said, “Yes, our students will do it!” Advisors Laura Tooke and John Santy escorted more than 20 students on April 24 to the triangle.
The frosting on the cake was a “mountain” of wood chips delivered by Randy Knuth and the good folks of the City Public Works Department. More than 20 students laid the black fabric and placed hundreds and hundreds of five-gallon buckets of wood chips on the site-back and forth, back and forth until the mountain disappeared. It took all morning. It’s complete, and we welcome you to walk by and check it out!
Volunteers made it happen. Rhinelander has many volunteer success stories like this one. And April is a great time to say thank you.
Last Friday evening two Downtown Rhinelander volunteers were recognized on the state level: Joan Belongia is our 2011 Volunteer of the Year and Brian Diel is our 2011 Honorary Board Member. Both were featured at the 22nd Annual Wisconsin Main Street Awards Program at Oscar Meyer Hall at Beloit College in Beloit. Paul Jadin, CEO/Secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, was on hand to recognize the efforts by Main Street volunteers across the state. Congratulations Joan and Brian and the other approximately 70 statewide volunteers.
This summer you might have an extra hour or two each week. You might be wondering how you can get connected with a project. Rhinelander has the Hodag Volunteer Connection in place. This is an online tool linking individuals who what to volunteer with organizations with the opportunities. Check it out at RhinelanderChamber.com. Anyone who would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities can contact me at the Downtown Rhinelander, Inc. office at 21 South Brown St., call us at (715) 362-7374 or send an email to email@example.com.
Thank you (you know who you are) for giving your time to bringing positive change to our community. And now we can taste the frosting!
See you downtown!
Sue Bessert is available at the Rhinelander Main Street office, located at 21A S. Brown St. Call her at (715) 362-7374, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.