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City of Park Falls secures state grant to build YMCA

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Childcare needs in the Park Falls area was one of the bigger motivators for getting a YMCA.

As a mother of two children, Allie Plessner was concerned when two of the bigger day cares in Park Falls closed down in just the last couple of years.

“Which in return affected me and my childcare, but also a ton of people leaving the workforce to tend for their children because they had no care for them,” she said.

Plessner says there’s a few options for in-home daycares, but she wanted to ensure that she and others wouldn’t have to leave her job due to lack of options.

“I like to work. I enjoy working. I think it’s important that these people have the option to go to work if they want to go to work,” said Plessner.

After making some inquiries about options to bring more childcare to Park Falls, Plessner was eventually directed to Ryan Zietlow, the CEO of the YMCA of the Northwoods.

After visiting the city last spring, Zietlow was onboard with building a YMCA in Park Falls, it was just a matter of how.

“We know the impact a Y can make on a daily basis on people’s lives and really that’s our mission, to ensure that we can impact as many as we can as positively as possible,” said Zietlow.

The options seemed limited until Park Falls just recently secured a $5,675,000 grant from the state’s Neighborhood Investment Fund Grant Program which is funded through with federal coronavirus relief aid.

“When we found this out, it’s like imagine your wildest dreams coming true today. Things that I never thought were possible in Park Falls, Wisconsin, we’re getting. We’re getting a YMCA,” said Plessner.

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WXPR
The Park Falls Paper Mill was sold in 2021 and the liquidation process began later that year.

Plessner says getting a YMCA shows the progress and forward movement of Park Falls, something the city needed after losing the paper mill last year.

“We lost that in our community, so to end this past year and then be able to go into 2022 with such a huge project to better our community, you couldn’t ask for better timing,” said Plessner.

The loss of mill did play into Zietlow’s and YMCA of the Northwoods decision, having to decide if it was worth investing in a community that was losing a major source of jobs and revenue.

But after visiting the community, Zietlow says it was clear, with or without the mill, Park Falls is growing.

“When you look at everything that’s happening in Park Falls, it’s phenomenal,” said Zietlow. “As a YMCA, part of it is we have to be a part of this. This is going to be a really good story in the long run, and we’re excited to be right alongside them.”

While the grant is a major step towards building a YMCA, it’s still one of the first ones.

Zietlow says it will take a lot of input from the community to assess their needs and building a Y to meet them.

“The City of Park Falls and the common council and a number of businesses in the community have supported us. We get one chance to do this. We’re excited engage with the Park Falls community and then refine that concept and then eventually break ground and make it a reality,” said Zietlow.

Plessner knows there’s still a lot of work ahead of them, but it’s an effort she can’t wait to put in.

“Everybody’s got to get onboard, and they’ve got to really get behind this project. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” said Plessner. “It’s going to be time consuming, but it’s going to be great.”

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