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Flambeau River YMCA breaks ground in Park Falls

Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR

Allie Plessner has been waiting years for a new childcare option in Park Falls, so long her oldest child doesn’t actually need the childcare services that started Plessner down this path.

“The first conversations were had in 2020, right before COVID. We had two daycares shutdown in town. [My children] are now 12 and 8, and my daughter doesn't even need childcare anymore,” said Plessner said with a laugh.

Plessner knew Park Falls needed more childcare options which led her to the YMCA of the Northwoods in Rhinelander to see about expanding services to the area. It eventually led to Park Falls getting its own branch of the YMCA, an achievement for a city of just over 2,400 people.

Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR

Plessner, YMCA staff and volunteers, and community members that made it happen gathered earlier this week to celebrate its groundbreaking.

“This is definitely an amazing feeling. We're a couple of years into this project and today is the day that we've all been waiting for. There were lots of hurdles through the process,” said Plessner. “We finally got to where we need to be and we get to break ground and to see what this building is going to be transformed to be is so exciting.”

Some of those hurdles included the long timeline, securing the funding, and being realistic about the cost to build it.

Plessner says the first piece of land they were aiming to build on would have cost $17 million.

“We had to reconsider, so that takes time. Where are we going to go? How are we going to do this? It just made everything last a little bit longer,” said Plessner. “So the $17 million hurdle then turned into an $8 to $10 million project, which was much more doable, especially with the grant dollars and fundraising.”

Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR

The old city hall is being renovated and added to for the new Flambeau River YMCA. The facility will include childcare, teen, and senior centers along with a 24/7 fitness center.

Scott Schultz is the recently hired executive director for the new facility. He grew up in Park Falls and worked for the YMCA in larger cities like in the Milwaukee area.

“Park Falls and the surrounding community is really in a much, in my opinion, a much different spot than a lot of communities in that there's needs, all the way from infants, like my daughter, all the way until the elderly. We don't have a senior center and we're low on daycare options,” said Schultz.

Park Falls and its surrounding communities that are expected to use the Flambeau River YMCA will be among the smallest communities served in the U.S. by a YMCA.

“It's just good to know that there's an organization that is willing to kind of go outside of what they're normally used to and invest in a community of our size,” said Mayor Tara Tervort. “It's just exciting to know that they're going to be providing all of these opportunities and services for the community that we've lacked for many years.”

Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR

The YMCA is still raising funds to eventually add a gymnasium.

Plessner says she has been talking with YMCA of the Northwoods CEO Linda May about how they could recreate what they’ve done in Park Falls as pilot program for other small communities.

“If we can show really a good track record and good proforma on this project, then we can ultimately make it possible for other small communities to launch this affordably and effectively to be able to run these,” said Plessner.

The Flambeau River YMCA is expected to serve people living within 90 minutes of Park Falls.

Construction is planned to be completed by this time next year.

More changes in Park Falls

Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR

The Park Falls City Hall recently relocated, which opened up the space for the Flambeau River YMCA to go into.

After years of discussion and planning, City Hall is now sharing space with the library.

Mayor Tervort says the plans started with the previous mayor and city council.

The building city hall had been in was in need of a lot of maintenance. Moving into the library was a cost-saving effort.

“It's exciting because the library was originally City Hall, it was the fire hall, and the police Hall. So knowing that we're kind of going back into our original building is exciting,” said Tervort. “It's working out really well. The whole idea was to make it feel like we've always been there, and I think we've done that.”

Katie Thoresen
/
WXPR

Construction is also going on at Old Abe Memorial Park, formerly known as Triangle Park.

It’s located near the intersection of Highway 13 and First Street behind Forward Bank.

The pavilion will stay, but the rest of the park is being transformed with a band shell, walking paths, and new bathrooms.

“It'll just hopefully be kind of a center for our community to get together and have events. I know, Wednesday Night Live, they're hoping to be able to move their event back there once the city is done with the project,” said Tervort. “It's a lot of good things happening in Park Falls.”

Tervort says the goal is to have construction wrapped up by the of September.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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