River District gets kickstart

The Merrill Area Community Fund has donated $10,000 to the River District Development Foundation of Merrill Inc., according to Mike Ravn, Community Fund chairman.

The foundation was formed to provide resources for projects allowing for the enjoyment and expansion of the spaces along Merrill’s Wisconsin and Prairie River corridors, from east to west.

The grant moneys will be initially used toward the planning and costs of establishing a 2.5-mile recreational trail along the Wisconsin River westward that will connect downtown Merrill with the MARC complex and Council Grounds State Park.

Plans are for the trail to be approximately 8 feet wide and lighted, and will incorporate segments of the recently abandoned railroad tracks and be used for walking, bicycling, snowshoeing and cross country skiing for local use and attracting tourism.

The foundation has received a technical assistance grant from the National Park Service to put toward this west side trail project.

The River District Development Foundation of Merrill Inc. has an 11-person board of directors, headed be retired education Gene Bebel, president, attorney Jim Wedemeyer is vice president, Becher-Hoppe engineer Tonia Speener is secretary and Chamber of Commerce executive director Debbe Kinsey is treasurer.

Speaking of the Foundation, Bebel stated, “This grant is a marvelous stimulus to our efforts to continue the River District Development project. The Foundation Board and entire community are thankful for this demonstration of support. There is a great enthusiasm and pride in Merrill as shown by the hundreds of people who have indicated their desire for us to keep moving forward.”

A community meeting will be held on March 7 at 6 p.m. at the Lincoln County Service Center to discuss project plans and receive input and advice.

The foundation has formed a support group called Friends of the River District, a nonprofit volunteer organization whose purpose is to promote development along Merrill’s river fronts.

Persons wishing to become members are eligible by paying $10 annual fees for individuals, $20 for families or $100 for lifetime membership. Brochures are available at local businesses.

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