River Bend Trail capital campaign
Merrill residents David Hayes and Mike Willman will serve as the co-chairmen of the $1 million capital campaign for the River Bend Trail of Merrill development project, according Gene Bebel, President, River District Development Foundation of Merrill. Bebel said the capital campaign would be launched in February.
The Foundation is a donor advised fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin. It was organized in February 2011 with a mission to provide “the resources that allow all Merrill area citizens to take part in the community’s beautiful river corridors.”
The capital campaign will focus on raising money to develop a 2.5 mile segment west of Center Avenue to Council Grounds State Park as a paved, multi-use, non-motorized trail primarily on unused Canadian National Railroad right-of-way historically known as the Wood Line.
Hayes is the Contact Center Manager for CoVantage Credit Union. He serves on the City of Merrill Redevelopment Authority. Hayes’ community involvements include the Optimist Club, Merrill Chamber Foundation director, Silver M Club and Lincoln Gun Club. Hayes is a Merrill native and graduated from Merrill High School and UW Stevens Point. He and his wife Sheila have two children.
Willman said he and his wife Sarah brought their three sons to Merrill in 1983 for employment opportunities, the school system, health care services, natural resources and the friendliness of the citizens. He retired in 2005 from the Department of Natural Resources as the Director of the State Park System. Willman currently serves on the Merrill Parks and Recreation Commission and has served on the Merrill city council and school board, the Chamber board, and the Merrill Area Recreation Complex fund raising committee.
The River Bend Trail of Merrill
With a technical services grant from the National Park Service, the Foundation engaged community residents in discussions to develop a vision for river-related trail resources in the city. The outcome was the River Bend Trail Concept Plan Report. The report can be read at the foundation’s web site at www.riverdistrictfoundationofmerrill.com.
The concept plan envisions future development of public trails along the banks of the Prairie and Wisconsin rivers. The trails would connect neighborhoods to parks, community events and attractions, and the downtown business district. They would provide recreation and alternative transportation facilities, and contribute to the promotion of economic development and redevelopment opportunities within the community.
The project has the support of the group Friends of the River District, a non-profit, volunteer organization whose purpose is to promote development along Merrill’s river corridors.
Foundation and City of Merrill officials have been engaged in discussions to develop a means through which a public-private partnership can bring about development of the first segment of trail to the west. The foundation has committed to raising private dollars to fund a public recreation facility like a linear park as has been described in the proposed Merrill 2013-2018 park plan.
After deciding at its January meeting to expand general public access to electronic and hard-copy versions of the plan, the Merrill Park and Recreation Commission anticipates adoption of the plan after a second public hearing Feb. 6 at City Hall. Trail-type facilities become eligible for state and federal funding when they are included in a recreation plan. The plan can be read at: http://www.ncwrpc.org/lincoln/merrill-orp.html#plan.
How to Contribute to the River Bend Trail
Contributions to the River Bend Trail capital campaign can be made to the River District Development Foundation of Merrill, P. O. Box 561, Merrill, WI 54452. All contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.
Information about the River Bend Trail of Merrill is available at: www.riverdistrictfoundationofmerrill.com. Visitors can download the River Bend Trail Concept Plan Report and a color rendering of The River Bend Trail of Merrill - West.
Online giving will be announced in the future.