Merrill Announces Plans for Ott Park Pickleball Courts Published on 09/21/2022 under News
Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Thanks to a generous donation, a new set of courts will be coming to Merrill.

For those unfamiliar, pickleball is net sport. A hybrid similar to tennis, but played on a smaller-sized court with solid paddles and a plastic wiffle ball. While the game has been around for decades, it's popularity has exploded in recent years.

The City of Merrill recently announced plans to install six lighted pickleball courts in Ott's Park next year. The funding from the project will come from the Bierman Family Foundation.

City Administrator David Johnson says, "Merrill presently has no dedicated venue for pickleball. These courts will provide a new recreation amenity for the City of Merrill."

Once completed, the new pickleball courts will give residents an opportunity to compete in leagues and tournaments, and play in singles or doubles just for fun.

Johnson is retiring next month. He said knowing that the courts were on the Parks and Recreation wishlist, he wanted to make this his last project ahead of retirement.

The city plans to gather proposals over the winter and break ground next spring.

In Other News

New Tomahawk Pick-Your-Produce Farm Offers Unique Opportunity;Connection with Nature
Published on 10/04/2022 under News The recent frost meant one last harvest for a successful debut season at a unique community garden near Tomahawk. Tranquil Acres was established earlier this year, by WJJQ's very own, Heather Smith, along with her husband Bill Smith. 'Farm to Table' is a growing trend and Tranquil Acres takes it one step further. People are invited right inside to get their hands dirty and pick their own produce. What makes it even more special is the motto, "Take what you need, pay what you can." Smith says, "Everyone should be able to afford healthy food for their family. We should all known where our food comes from." Smith says they established the garden to help focus on positivity amid all that's going on in the world from inequality and war to rising gas and grocery prices. Over the past three months, the farm, south of town, was buzzing with people on weekends, often learning about the garden through social media and word-of-mouth. That same community also began sharing photos of farm visits and fresh garden meals. An important aspect of the farm was connection...connecting with nature; connecting with people; and allowing people to connect with their food. Neither farmers by trade, the Smiths were able to learn as season progressed... People preferred green beans to the yellow; kohlrabi are more popular than expected; and cabbage can produce multiple heads. Tranquil Acres also takes steps to ensure everyone can access the garden. This season they created 'Special Days for Special People' which allowed appointments for those that may not be able to visit among a crowd. They're also looking to create mobility options for those who have difficulty in walking the garden rows. While this year's focus was on the produce, that wasn't the only crop being planted. The garden area is also surrounded by rows of lavender, around 2,000 plants of five varieties. Smith explained that in order to reach full maturity, the lavender needs about three years of growth before they are able to harvest. Winter will bring a little bit of downtime at Tranquil Acres, but the Smith's are already looking forward to next season. Plans are also in the works for walking trails, flower picking, and even some fruit trees. In the meantime, you can check out their Facebook page for updates, photos and more.
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Ice Age Trail Alliance Brings Back "Mammoth Challenge"
Published on 10/04/2022 under News The Ice Age Trail spans more than 1,200 miles across the state of Wisconsin including hundreds of miles in the Northwoods. In October, the Ice Age Trail Alliance group is encouraging people to explore various trail segments and communities as part of their annual Mammoth Challenge. Hikers, walkers, runners and backpackers who sign up are asked to traverse 42 miles of the trail while also visiting three designated Ice Age Trail communities. The 42 miles represent the 42nd Anniversary of the Ice Age Trail becoming a National Scenic Trail. Bonus miles are available for those making additional visits at the 17 additional Ice Age Trail Communities. The two newest right here in the Northwoods. Rib Lake was designated earlier this year, Merrill is planning a ceremony this weekend. Amy Lord, with the Alliance, notes that if the 42 miles seems daunting participants can complete the challenge as a team with friends and family. Over the years, more than 13,000 people have completed the Challenge. Hikers have until the end of the month to complete the Challenge and will receive a certificate and a limited-edition patch featuring the woolly mammoth. Registration is available on the Ice Age Trail Alliance website where they've also created numerous itineraries to help plan hikes with maps and points of interest along the trails.
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Forest County/Potowatomi Community Receive $10 Million Federal Grant for Multipurpose Trail
Published on 10/04/2022 under News Forest County and the Potowatomi Community will jointly receive nearly $10 million in federal infrastructure grants to construction a multipurpose trail connecting various areas of the community. Overall, US Senator Tammy Baldwin announced four Wisconsin projects would share in $31 million in Raise grant funds to invest in infrastructure projects. According to the announcement, the $9.5 million Forest County/Potowatomi Community (FCPC) grant will help construct an approximately 4.8-mile walking and biking path along Highway 8 linking the City of Crandon, Stone Lake reservation lands, and the Otter Springs Recreation Area. A half mile pathway through the FCPC government complex and a 1.6 mile ATV-only trail are also funded. Other projects selected include bridge work in Beloit and Sheboygan, as as well as an Oneida Nation bus garage.
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Ground Breaking for New Holiday Inn Hotel in Rhinelander
Published on 10/04/2022 under News A new Holiday Inn Express and Suites is coming to Rhinelander next year. This week, developers and city leaders held a ground-breaking ceremony, kicking off the project. The new facility will be located at 1958 Navajo Street near the Rennes Health and Rehab Center. According to the announcement it will feature 99 rooms, as well as meeting space and a 24 hour business center. IHG Senior Vice President Kevin Schramm says, "We look forward to working with ROI Hospitality Development to introduce the Holiday Inn Express & Suites experience to travelers and our new neighbors within the growing Rhinelander community." Lori Haug, Managing Member with the investment group, Hodag Hospitality Group says "We are excited to bring this facility to the Rhinelander community and look forward to connecting travelers to the beauty of this area." At this time, officials are eyeing an opening in the late summer or early fall of next year.
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DNR Sets Aside $10 Million to Address Well Contamination
Published on 10/04/2022 under News The DNR has set aside $10 million in financial assistance to address well contamination. They're now accepting applications. The funding is through the Well Compensation and Abandonment Grant program. It will be available for qualifying well-owners to replace, reconstruct, treat or abandon their well. Contamination can include nitrates, arsenic, PFAS and bacteria that presents a human health risk. Applicants will be required to provide water sample results to confirm contamination. The DNR notes that their eligibility criteria has been expanded beyond previous well programs, so those who may have previously been ineligible may now qualify. The funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act and will be available until the funding has been exhausted. You can visit the DNR website to learn more.
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'The Community Project' Established to Assist in Tomahawk Area
Published on 10/03/2022 under News A new organization has been established in Tomahawk that is focused on community. Known as "The Community Project," the new non-profit was the brainchild of Julie Hofmann and Jennifer Van Rixel. The pair stopped by the WJJQ studios this past week to talk a bit about their plans. While traveling together for work, the two came up with a wide-reaching organization focused on community, With the seed planted, the project came together quickly; by August they were officially established as a non-profit. Van Rixel says, "We're big dreamers and don't like to limit ourselves." The Community Project has several missions including offering fun and safe activities while also giving back to existing local groups. Just a few examples of that outreach are necessity and winter clothing drives, a school snack program, and assisting low-income families in extracurricular participation. According to their website, they're also looking to establish a 'Future Entrepreneurs' program. Hofmann added, "We're everything community. We're not limited; we're not a small box." There will be a number of ways to get involved including one coming up this weekend. Among their debut events is a Pumpkin patch with decorations and photos at SARA Park on Saturday. Other upcoming events include a DIY wreath project and a snowshoe hike this winter. You can check out the conversation in the WJJQ Audio Center; visit their website at; and they've got a physical location at the end of Main Street across from the Post Office.
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Never Forgotten Honor Flight Takes Trip to Washington
Published on 10/03/2022 under News Another group of Northwoods Veterans are heading to our nation's capital Monday to visit the monuments built in their honor. The Never Forgotten Honor Flight is taking their fourth and final flight of the year today. After a two year pandemic pause, the Honor Flight missions were able to resume this spring. Organizers said 108 veterans will take part in today's trip including 1 from Korea and 107 Vietnam era veterans. The mission also marks the 42nd flight for the local hub since 2010. During that time, approximately 4,000 Northwoods veterans will have traveled to Washington DC through the Honor Flight.
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Informational Meeting on Opportunity Development Center Expansion to Merrill
Published on 10/03/2022 under News Coming up this evening, people can learn more about a program coming to Merrill that provides services for those with differing abilities and specials needs. As we told you last week, Opportunity Development Center announced their plans to expand services to Merrill. The non-profit operates in 12 Wisconsin counties. They offer a variety of programs such as employment, day services, school transition, and daily living skills. President and CEO Julie Strenn called moving into Merrill a natural extension of the services already provided in the Wausau area. She says, "We look forward to building relationships in the Merrill community and help each individual live their best life." They'll initially operate out of a temporary location at St. Stephen's United Church of Christ until a permanent site is identified. For those that would like to learn more, they've scheduled an informational meeting this evening, from 5:30pm-7pm at Park City Credit Union in Merrill.
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Sports Betting Coming to Sokaogon Reservation Near Crandon
Published on 10/03/2022 under News Sports betting is coming to another tribal casino, this time here in Northern Wisconsin. Governor Tony Evers and tribal leaders from the Sokaogon Chippewa Community announced an amended gaming pact on Friday that will allow for wagering at the Mole Lake Casino near Crandon as well as other locations within the reservation via mobile app. Gov. Evers said in a press release. "This amendment will generate additional revenue for the Tribe and our state, bolster local tourism, and support jobs in Northern Wisconsin—and that's a win-win for everyone." The Sokaogon Chippewa Community will join a handful of other tribes in allowing sports and event betting in their facilities. Following a 45 day review period, they hope to begin taking bets in time for the NFL Playoffs and College Football Bowl Season.
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Friends of Council Grounds Announces Annual Photo Contest Winners
Published on 10/03/2022 under News A foggy dock, a soaring eagle, and a kayaking family were among the winners in a local photo contest. The Friends of Council Grounds recently announced the winners of their annual photo competition. Winners were selected in four categories from around 45 entries. In announcing the winners, the Friends group thanked everyone who submitted photos, and those who voted. As for the winners, three were from the Merrill community. Tina Diel snapped a photo of an eagle taking off from a tree to win the animal category. Kathy Yahr won the landscape category with a dock disappearing into the fog. Hillary Lau's photo of a frosty oak tree was best in the plant category. And finally Deb Hafenbrendl of Milladore was the winner of people using the park for her picture of 'grandpa and the twins' out on a kayak trip. The photographers featured in the final voting have been invited to attend their Friends of Council Grounds Candlelight Walk coming up this weekend, as have member of the public. That's from 7-10 p.m. starts and ends at the beach picnic area. The top 12 photos are also available for viewing on the Friends Group Facebook Page.
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