Jamie Taylor/river news
Pictured during the ceremonial ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon, from left, are: Brent Sundby, Walmart; Tom Peterson, Tarsie Goes, Krystal Fochs, Jenny Kowalczyk, Dave Russ, Cecily Dawson, Adam Schmidt, RHS welding instructor; Ashly Hartmann, Linda Moore, Christy Schneider, Nick Cates, RHS student; Lauren Sackett, Carrie Theisen, Jan Leschke, Bob Chasteen and his son Gavin.
6/29/2019 7:30:00 AM Leadership Oneida County spearheads new kayak racks Project allows for easy access at three popular locations
Leadership Oneida County (LOC) graduates, the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors and others who made the project possible held a formal ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon at Hodag Park to unveil kayak racks built as part of a LOC group project.
Leadership Oneida County is a nine-month program designed to cultivate and prepare emerging leaders in Oneida County. It does so by creating an awareness of services and organizations within the county, and reinforces an individual's call to civic responsibility and citizen involvement, organizers say.
A total of three racks, which are designed to hold six kayaks, were placed at Hodag Park, Pelican Rapids Boat Landing and the river launch at Norway Street near Rhinelander's Riverwalk, with the assistance of Rhinelander parks director Jeremy Biolo and with the blessing of the city's common council.
According to 2019 LOC graduate Bob Chasteen, the cost of the materials to build the racks was covered, in large part, by a grant from Walmart.
"Walmart actually has grants that they give out money to the community," Chasteen said. "It worked out that one of our members knew the manager there very well, so we took advantage of that. And with some additional funds, we were able to raise just a little extra to cover those costs."
He noted the grant stipulated that the racks had to be free to the public.
"Basically, it had to be for the community and not for profit," he said.
The idea to build the racks came from LOC graduate Cecily Dawson, who had noted the popularity of the fixtures in other cities that offer space to rent or borrow kayaks to allow users to go paddling without the hassle of transporting their kayak via car or truck for each outing.
Owners are responsible for securing their kayaks to the rack.
The most current concept plan the city is looking at for enhancing Hodag Park includes kayak and canoe rental, but Chasteen said these racks are not an outgrowth of that plan.
"One of the issues, if you look at the demographics, like every other community, it's hard to attract younger people," he said. "So by adding features like this, hopefully it will bring some of those people in."
While the city had urged the location of one of the racks by the downtown amphitheater by Trigs, Chasteen said LOC opted to locate it slightly upstream. He said the city is also looking to add more racks at other locations.
"They (the city) could do that, or another person could pick up where we left off," Chasteen noted.
Dawson said she came up with the idea last fall while her LOC class was brainstorming possible project ideas.
"It was not a new idea, and I knew that when I was walking along the walkway behind the dog park, and it's green and grassy and the Pelican River is there," she said. "And I said it would be fun to kayak here."
She started looking at other cities that have access to water and discovered many have similar racks operated for a char
In early winter of 2018, the team behind the racks, which included Dawson, Chasteen, Ashly Hartmann, Carrie Theisen and Christy Schneider, approached the city's parks committee with their idea.
"They approved the idea, they just told us they wouldn't be able to pay for them," Dawson said. "We worked really hard on it, but it wasn't super difficult to accomplish this. We got so much support from the city of Rhinelander, local vendors, from Walmart who provided the $1,000 community grant. We really had nothing but good compliments, we just needed to orchestrate it."
The next step was to find someone who could take the materials the group had purchased and build the racks.
The group decided to approach Rhinelander High School welding instructor Adam Schmidt, who asked then-senior welding student Nick Cates if he would like to take it on.
"They came to me and said they wanted to do a project," Schmidt said. "We got Nick and another former student Nate Roberts, he worked on it too."
A kayaker himself, Cates was happy to work the project.
"I wanted to build this project. I wanted to make sure they were the best kayak racks I have seen," he said.
Schmidt said it was nice that Cates and Roberts got to leave something as a legacy to Rhinelander.
When asked what grade the two students received for their work, he replied, "oh, A's" with a laugh.
Dawson said her group had a good experience with LOC and encouraged business owners and individuals looking for a way to give back to the community to consider enrolling in the program.
"It doesn't matter what their role is, they don't have to be a business person in our community," Dawson said. "We really got a lot out of it."
"Even lifelong residents got something out of it," added Chasteen. "They found things, not-for-profits and things like that, they didn't even know about."
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