I hit Brown Street last week to gauge opinions in Rhinelander on the community and the surrounding area. I asked one question: What changes would you like to see in the Northwoods? While an infrastructural motif was evident, the responses were as varied as the people themselves.
Patty Olenik is a Rhinelander native and the owner of the Mad Batter Bakery.
"Parking! More parking. That’s probably the best thing. The parallel parking has been as issue. I parked on the other side of the street the other day and somebody parked halfway in my spot so I had to wiggle my way out, so that’s an issue."
“So you’d rather see it go one way?”
"Angled. Either one way or both ways. I think it was fine the way it was."
She also advocated for increased downtown activities.
"More events downtown. Bring back the car show, you know? Things like that. Like Redikulus Dae, that used to bring in a lot of people downtown. They permanently moved the car show behind the courthouse, which kind of sucks, but they’re going to do the Bike and Burgers with the car show, which should help."
Tricia Novak of Tricia’s Treasures also encouraged a greater appreciation of downtown.
"In downtown Rhinelander, I’d love to see more specialty shops. I think the more we have, the more we get, as far as people roaming the streets. Downtown in general for people is a gem. If we wouldn’t have the downtown, we wouldn’t have our town. So I think the more we can support the downtown district, the better I think the city would be. I actually have a storefront in Crandon and that has really come to life. We have all of our storefronts pretty much full, so I really hope the same for Rhinelander, that we can fill the storefronts and that we can get this downtown alive again."
Mary Martin, a resident of Pelican Lake for 54 years, had similar things to say as Olenik regarding parking on Brown Street.
"It’s very hard to find a parking place downtown since the new parking arrangements went into effect. And I the sidewalks have been made bigger so I don’t know if it could ever be changed back, but I think that was a mistake."
She also took offense to the maintenance to the side of the roads.
"Many years ago, before the highway department got so correct, they didn’t used to mow the grass alongside the roads, and in late June and July we had beautiful daisy flowers. And now, the highway department comes out and cuts the weeds and kills the flowers and so none of the tourists can come up here and see how beautiful it is alongside the roads."
Road conditions and road work were the primary concerns of Ashley, an employee at Book World.
"The roads need to be redone. There’s potholes in all of them and when they work on them, they need to get the job quicker than what it normally takes them. It takes away from fixing other roads. Every roads in this whole town needs to be fixed."
Roads were not the only suggestions from concerned citizens, however. I stopped into the KIN Youth Program to speak with the kids there as well as the director, where youth activities and safety were the primary concerns. This is Shauna, who attends the KIN Program.
"I’d like to have a bike lane going downtown, and I like for skateboarders to be allowed on the sidewalks because I prefer not to get hit when I’m skateboarding. I was skateboarding here today and I was right next to the cars so I wouldn’t get hit, but I know for biking it’s also hard because I do biking it’s also hard because I do bike around town. Riding on the sidewalks is good for skateboarding because we don’t get hit, and we’d have an easier way to get the places we need to go."
The director, Angela Dexter, had similar things to say as she asked the room for kids’ opinions.
"What? What do we want? What would you guys do? Skate park? Skate park skate park skate park."
Not everyone wanted big changes, though. This is Bill Reichert from Vernon Hills, IL, who lives here in the summertime.
"Well, honestly, the reason we come to the Northwoods all summer is because we love it the way it is, so honestly I wouldn’t like to see many changes, truth be told. I like it the way it is. I guess I would like to see continued advancements in conservation; I’m an avid fisherman and I like some of the changes they have been making. I’d like to see the walleye fishing get a little bit better but other than that I’m a pretty happy guy."
He also presented a view on the state of the road construction here in Rhinelander that contrasted the others that were given by locals of the Northwoods.
"I think that the construction is a minimal
inconvenience for the benefits that are going to come about as a result. It might seem disruptive in a small town but in actuality, it’s really not that disruptive and it’s coming along pretty nicely."