Friends of Rib Mountain State Park Executive Summary

THE ORGANIZATION: Friends of Rib Mountain State Park, Inc. is a diverse group of volunteers organized to support and improve Rib Mountain State Park (“the Park”) for all its visitors. For 30 years, the group has assisted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources by funding various initiatives that improve, preserve, and promote year-round outdoor recreational and educational Park activities. The Park’s annual budget is $68,863. Notable enhancements – including the recently completed Friends Gathering Space Shelter and upper playground – would not exist without the Friends of Rib Mountain.

THE PROJECT: The Paved Pedestrian Walking Path Extension and Expansion Loop project will extend the existing paved walking path near the top of the park, creating a completely paved loop for pedestrians to enjoy. A new 8-foot-wide paved path (ADA compliant where feasible) would connect to and complete the existing 0.6-mile road loop, add an additional 1/3 mile of designated walking path surface, and increase options for Park users who require a moderate-grade paved walking surface. This extension offers Park and path pedestrians a safer location for exercise and enjoyment of some of the Park’s most spectacular views and most heavily used/visited areas. The project would also include paving additional accessible parking spaces next to the Friends Gathering Space building.

THE NEED: Rib Mountain State Park is one of the Wausau area’s most treasured outdoor recreation destinations. The observed increase in walking path use and increased vehicle traffic have become a growing safety concern for Park visitors. In 2022 alone, the Park recorded nearly 600,000 visitors and estimated approximately 76,000 users of the current paved walking path. The existing paved walking path terminates near the top of the park’s day-use area. The area becomes congested due to its proximity to popular attractions such as the playground, concessions, picnic areas, trailheads, and the observation tower. The paved path currently ends at the upper loop, forcing walkers to turn around or walk on the narrow road sections through the upper parking lot which creates safety issues for pedestrians.

THE USE OF IMPACT 100 GRANT FUNDS: Our grant, along with $22,000 of Friends-raised funds, will fully fund the construction of the paved walking path loop extension and parking lot extension at the top of Rib Mountain State Park. The grant would be paid out as construction is completed, with projected completion by July 2024.

FUTURE EXPECTATIONS/SUSTAINABILITY: Future maintenance of the completed walking path expansion will be included in the Park’s annual maintenance scope and budget. Routine maintenance such as leaf blowing, plowing, crack sealing, seal coating, and asphalt maintenance will be covered by the Park or state development project funds, along with other road maintenance. The existing walking path is 13 years old and performing well. The new path’s estimated life is 20-30 years or more.

FROM THE GRANTS COMMITTEE: The Friends of Rib Mountain State Park is an enthusiastic, volunteer-run organization whose many projects have greatly enhanced the Park. The walking path extension project will further enhance the park experience for the thousands of community members and visitors by providing Park visitors of all ages and abilities with a safer space for exercise and enjoyment of recreational park areas. Awarding the grant to Friends of Rib Mountain State Park will support and enhance the overall health and well-being of community members and Park visitors for decades!