River District Foundation Unveils Plan for Biking, Walking Path in Merrill

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

The River District Development Foundation of Merrill will soon start a capital campaign to raise money for a walking and biking path.

The group of volunteers unveiled their proposed phase one of the River Bend Trail along the Wisconsin River Wednesday night.

The foundation was formed after Merrill residents voted down a referendum which would have allowed the city to develop the riverfront outside of the downtown area, at their expense.

Members want to create recreational trails along the river by raising private dollars.

Phase one of the foundation's plans would build a bike and walk trail from the downtown area to Council Grounds State Park. The path would be 2.5 miles long and a big portion of it would include abandoned railway.

Debbe Kinsey, the foundation's treasurer and executive director of the Merrill Chamber of Commerce, says some people already walk along the river and it should be fully developed.

"We have a beautiful water way that really isn't utilized to its full potential, it runs right through the heart of the community," Kinsey said.

The foundation is working with the National Park Service, which has offered a technical assistance grant.

Tony Kusserow, who co-owns Courtside Furniture and is a member of the foundation, believes the trail will be good for recreation and business.

"Definitely it will help the businesses," he said.

Members are also awaiting an appraisal on the abandoned railroad tracks. After they get a better idea of what it will cost to build the path, they'll start their capital campaign. People can become a Friend of the River District through an annual membership.

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