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Community Highlight: Marshfield, WI & Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS)

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

Special thanks to the following individuals for taking the time to share information for this article: Amber Corcoran (MCHS), Emily Dieringer (MCHS & Active Wisconsin steering committee member), Josh Miller (City of Marshfield), Kristie Rauter-Egge (Wood County), and Steven Wiley (City of Marshfield).

Marshfield, Wisconsin is living proof that active transportation is possible in cities and towns of all sizes. Located right in the middle of the state, Marshfield has a population of about 18,000 people and boasts several quirky local attractions and a world-class medical clinic . Both the city of Marshfield and the Marshfield Clinic Health System have done a lot to promote healthy living and active transportation through good planning, bike shares, and more.

Two people ride cruiser style bikes on a paved path on a sunny day. Photo used with permission from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Photo used with permission from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Image description: Two people ride cruiser style bikes on a paved path on a sunny day.

City of Marshfield – Planning for Infrastructure

For the last two decades, Marshfield has been working to improve their bike and pedestrian trail network to serve both commuter and recreational needs. The network has gaps, however, and according to city staff, until a couple of years ago the plan on file was “primarily a map that showed existing and future trails, and…didn’t offer much guidance or prioritization.” In early 2020, Marshfield city planners set out to create a more robust plan that would lay out goals and objectives more clearly to improve the bike and pedestrian system. They know that providing opportunities for biking and walking are important elements for commuting, improving health, decreasing CO2 emissions, enjoying outdoor spaces, and boosting economic development as well.

The new Marshfield Bike/Ped plan was approved in Fall 2021 and is already yielding exciting results! Two examples include: 1) a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district approved in 2021 with a future bike trail through a new subdivision based on the Bike/Ped plan, and; 2) a street reconstruction plan on the west side of town that will likely include a trail connection.

Public engagement was key to the success of the Bike/Ped plan. Marshfield residents are enthusiastic about trail connectivity, and city staff worked closely with bicycle advocates and other stakeholders to gather input and ensure buy-in from the public. The city has always worked hard to secure funding from outside sources to avoid burdening taxpayers, and the new Bike/Ped plan will strengthen the city’s position when applying for grants.

Bike Shares

One way to encourage active transportation is through bike shares. With bike shares, people can enjoy the benefits of trails and other bicycle infrastructure without the cost and hassle of owning and maintaining a bike of their own. It is a good way for people to try out biking to see how they like it or explore a new place they are visiting. With the support of the community and several partner organizations and businesses, Wood County started River Riders Bike Share several years ago with a few donated bikes that were refurbished for rent. In 2021, the program expanded into Marshfield and was renamed the Marshfield Community Bike Share. Anyone can rent bikes for $1.00 per hour at four locations throughout the city. Options include cruiser-style bikes and a few accessible bikes.

Marshfield Clinic Health System

The Marshfield Clinic Health System (MCHS) supports employee wellness by encouraging biking in many ways. Employees have a cycle club who organize group rides, participate in Bike Month in May, and make state recreational passes and maps available. While the Health System has not officially sponsored any group rides during the Covid-19 pandemic employees are still biking on their own.

In 2018, the Health System launched a bike share for their employees with the help of a local business, The Sports Den. MCHS purchased several cruiser-style bikes mounted with luggage racks and bells, installed bike racks at strategic locations at their buildings, and created videos with information about the program and bike safety. Employees who participate in the bike share have used them to go from building to building for meetings, to the fitness center for workouts, or to run errands during lunch breaks. Because of the hilly terrain at MCHS main campus, many of those bike rides likely replaced trips that would otherwise have been by car. Unfortunately, due to Covid protocols, the Health System’s bike share program has been suspended since early 2020, but they are hoping to restart in the spring when the weather warms up, assuming the threat of the virus has abated.

So there you have it, folks! The City of Marshfield and Marshfield Clinic Health System have demonstrated that good bicycle planning, infrastructure, and programming are possible in small cities and supported by the public.

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