raSmith worked with and assisted the National Park Service’s Rivers & Trails Program to develop a concept plan and report for a 2.5-mile river trail in the City of Merrill along the Wisconsin River. The proposed trail will link downtown Merrill shops and businesses to fishing areas, neighborhoods, a large recreational complex and to Council Grounds State Park. The River District Development Foundation of Merrill and the City of Merrill parks director were instrumental in bringing this opportunity forward to the community and were an integral part of the planning process and its success.
Several community meetings and design workshops were held in order to introduce the project to the citizens, elected officials and local business leaders and to allow them to participate in the planning of the trail. One of the workshops was held at the high school with a group of students who belong to an environmental group as part of their curriculum. Another workshop engaged 75 participants from Merrill’s population of 9,500 in describing trail amenities, opportunities, and potential hurdles. The outcome of these workshops helped to define the ultimate location and character of the trail as well as connections to the overall region.