Ben Meyer

Special Topics Correspondent

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Ben took the newly-created position of Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR in September of 2019. For a year, he focused on reporting on water and water resource issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.

Starting in September 2020, Ben’s reporting focus has been on the new landscape of living, working, and playing in the Northwoods, a place mostly devoid of giant employers, but a home to many entrepreneurs, small businesses, and people working from home. The series is called Employed.

In addition to special topics reporting, Ben often contributes to daily news reporting and hosting on WXPR.

Prior to joining the WXPR team, Ben spent more than seven years serving in several roles at WJFW-TV in Rhinelander.

Originally from Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Ben is a graduate of UW-Madison. He lives in Rhinelander with his wife, Erika.  Outside of work, Ben is currently pursuing a law degree at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in the Twin Cities. He’s is an avid Brewers and Badgers fan, and enjoys doing outdoor projects, running, and competing in triathlons.  Ben is also a WIAA basketball official and calls play-by-play for Rhinelander Hodags sports.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

On days the paper mill is operating, a century-old steam whistle sounds at noon over Park Falls.

It’s been silent for most of the past year as the mill went through layoffs, a closure, and bankruptcy.

But the whistle sounded again on Wednesday, and it will sound into the future as the mill begins to come to life again.

On Wednesday, the city celebrated a new mill owner – Park Falls Industrial Management – and the reopening of the mill under a new name – Park Falls Pulp and Paper.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections

National Guard troops were at the Lincoln Hills youth prison near Irma Thursday, helping test staff for COVID-19.

It’s part of an effort by the Department of Corrections to track and handle any cases of COVID-19 in the state prison system.

To date, 907 inmates and 238 staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in prisons statewide.

Thursday’s testing at Lincoln Hills is part of an ongoing effort to identify and respond to the virus.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Cindy Hoffman is a grandmother.

She doesn’t have a job, but she’s not retired.

Instead, for eight hours a day, she’s a student.

“Yes. It is my job until I get my degree,” she said, sitting on her back porch in St. Germain.

Using her laptop, Hoffman showed off her Nicolet College learning portal.

“I’ve been on the Dean’s List now a couple of times,” Hoffman said. “If I do anything, I want to do it well.”

Now in her late 50s, Hoffman was named the college’s Academic Success Student of the Year last year.

Two people known to be contagious with COVID-19 were at a Merrill supermarket over the last two weeks.

They were at Dave’s County Market in Merrill on Aug. 21, 22, 25, and 26, and the Lincoln County Health Department says they may have spread the virus.

Staff and customers who feel they may have been exposed are encouraged to stay home for two weeks from the exposure date.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Pete McGeshick II looked out upon Spur Lake and thought about what used to be.

“The lake was full,” he said. “The rice bed was full all the way around.”

Wild rice used to grow thick on the 113-acre undeveloped lake in eastern Oneida County.

It grew tall, too.  

“You could come out here and you could see people harvesting wild rice,” McGeshick said. “A lot of them, you couldn’t even see because the wild rice was so high.”

Ben Meyer/WXPR

For years, many wildlife managers have assumed removing beaver dams on streams helps trout populations.

It allows the streams to run colder and more free, conditions trout generally like.

In an episode of The Stream last month, we showed you how wildlife managers often use explosives to remove dams.

Deputies from several Northwoods sheriff’s offices are in Kenosha, helping manage protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake.

Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha police officers. Protests, both peaceful and violent, have followed.

Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman sent a team of his deputies to Kenosha on Monday, responding to a request from Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The construction on Stevens Street on Rhinelander’s north side is nearly complete as heavy machinery rumbles by the auto dealerships that line the road.

But Tom Jerow didn’t come to look at a car or check up on the road work.

“I see a beautiful wetland with lots of diverse vegetation that are indicators of wetlands,” Jerow said.

Wedged between Rhinelander Toyota and the Aspirus Clinic is a low-lying wetland with tamaracks, cattails, and reeds.

Wisconsin is now under a State of Emergency following protests across the state.

Gov. Tony Evers made the move Tuesday afternoon after a night of protests.

The protests were reacting to the shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, a Black man repeatedly shot in the back by Kenosha police.

The State of Emergency declaration calls additional members of the Wisconsin National Guard to duty.

The National Guard will protect critical infrastructure, assist in maintaining public safety, and protect peaceful protests.

Some protests got violent overnight.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Walking out onto a muskeg, or wetland, the first things most people notice are the sensation of sinking and sound of suction.

Saturated sphagnum moss, or peat moss, covers the wetland. It’s walkable, but only with knee boots on. Legs sink to calf-level. They’re buoyed by the moss, although water seeps in.

But upon arriving at this wetland in Iron County, Aaron Marti first noticed a different sensation.

“If you take a deep breath,” he said, “you can get a bit of a whiff of, it’s kind of a sweet, almost spicy aroma.”

Crandon International Off-Road Raceway

The president of Crandon’s off-road raceway says “drivers weren’t going to miss” major races now scheduled for next month, even during a pandemic.

In the past, those races have drawn tens of thousands of fans, and the races will go forward again this fall.

Crandon International Raceway President Cliff Flannery announced last week the 51st World Championship Off-Road Races will proceed as scheduled over Labor Day weekend and the annual Brush Run is reschedule for the last weekend in September.

Pixabay

Most Northwoods public schools will return to five-day-per-week, in-person instruction this fall, a WXPR survey shows.

Schools have had to consider changing their learning models and in-person plans due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Wisconsin. No students have been in school since March, when the virus started taking hold in the state and Gov. Tony Evers closed schools.

Lincoln County reported its first death from COVID-19 Monday afternoon.

The county health department said the person was in their 30s and had underlying health conditions.

As of Friday, Lincoln County reported 67 positive cases of COVID-19.

In WXPR news:

  • Storms Sunday night created damage and travel issues in the Star Lake area
  • USDA Rural Development grants will benefit two Northwoods groups
  • A major wastewater treatment plant project is set to move forward in Lac du Flambeau
  • A rare plant, thought to be extinct, has been found near Crandon

Ben Meyer/WXPR

In this line of work, projects don’t start with a bang.

They end with one.

With a booming explosion on Tuesday morning, a portion of stream at the headwaters of Big Haymeadow Creek in Langlade County again flowed freely, a beaver dam blasted out of the way.

Jeremy Irish, an assistant district supervisor with the USDA’s Wildlife Services program, triggered the blast, undoing some of this year’s construction by beavers in the area. In the process, he cleared another portion of one of northern Wisconsin’s best trout streams.

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