For the second of four Merrill Community Forum Series events, Peter Kageyama, author of “For the Love of Cities” toured the community prior to his keynote presentation called “For the Love of Merrill.” Based on his tour, Kageyama gave specific suggestions that might work in Merrill.
Kageyama noted that residents of any community tend to take their surroundings for granted over time.
“A relationship with a place not nurtured goes stale,” he said.
The bare minimum standards for a community are that it’s functional and safe, he said. But to make a community truly loveable requires more.
“Where’s the fun? That’s a question that can be asked a lot more,” Kageyama said.
He said Merrill is a small enough city that any person or group of people can make a difference.
“The people who want to make your community better are already here,” he said.
The exercise went beyond just talk, however. The 54 attendees were asked to brainstorm ideas that would make Merrill a more interesting community, both for visitors and residents. The object was to come up with projects that would be low-cost and done solely by volunteers.
Two projects won support from the audience and the initial $500 in costs will be covered by Church Mutual and the Merrill Area Community Foundation. Those projects were the Blue Jay Walk and the Jail Mural project. A number of attendees volunteered to help with the two projects. Ongoing assistance with the two projects that won will be provided by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Lincoln County.
The murals on the Lincoln County Jail would have a history of Merrill theme and be placed on all three sides of the structure (past, present, future). Local artists, including the talented high school mural painters, would be asked to participate. Murals would likely be embossed on to vinyl to reduce the need for maintenance.
The concept of the Blue Jay Walk involves stenciling logos of Blue Jays on sidewalks. Different colors will direct people to different attractions. One color would be for retail, another for parks, another for historical attractions, and another for fitness areas. Maps would be created showing the walking paths and the points of interest on them based on the color codes.
In offering the funding for the projects, Tom Cadwallader of the Merrill Area Community Foundation, said the ideas generated are what the foundation was hoping for.
“We’d like to do something to make things happen,” he said. “We’re ready to help, we just need some good ideas.”
Kageyama also led the audience through several other planning segments, including asking each table to design a t-shirt that conveys what Merrill is all about. The results ran from serious to silly.
Attendees were also asked to identify Merrill’s traditional events that they would like to see retained or expanded. And, ideas for possible new events were presented.
The Forum Series continues Thursday, May 23, with a keynote presentation from Terry Whipple, current Executive Director of the Juneau County Economic Development Corporation. Terry has a statewide reputation of being a leader in the effort to foster a culture of entrepreneurism. This third event in the Merrill Community Forum Series will be offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Merrill Eagles Club. In order to reserve a spot (seating is limited) please call the Merrill Chamber at 715-536-9474 or the UW-Extension at 715-539-1075.