“I’m Glad You Asked . . .” The Top-5 Questions People Ask Staff of the Marathon County PARKS, RECREATION, & FORESTRY DEPARTMENT

Written by Jamie Polley

As part of its commitment to be open, honest, and communicative about the topics that Marathon County leadership and staff get comments and questions on the most, this month’s “I’m Glad You Asked . . .” article features:

The Top-5 Questions People Ask Staff of the Marathon County PARKS, RECREATION, & FORESTRY DEPARTMENT

Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Director Jamie Polley (left in red) with Parks Tour participants at Mission Lake Park. (Photo courtesy of Karyn Powers.)

April 20–28 is National Parks Week. If you’re not able to make it to a National Park, I invite you to visit one of the many great City and County Parks available to you right here in Marathon County! After a long winter, it’s time to GET OUTDOORS!

In fact, Wausau has a free, healthy, family activity for you to try . . . The Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department has teamed up with the Marathon County Public Library again this year to put on Trail Tales from April 15 to May 15.

Go on a Story Book Walk along the River Edge Trail from behind the Marathon County Public Library to the pedestrian bridge at River Life. Laminated pages from 2 children’s books are affixed to stands along the trail for families to enjoy together outdoors while strolling along the beautiful Wisconsin River. Learn more at our Facebook page.

Below I’ve answered some common questions that our staff at the Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department receive that may be of interest to you . . . Please share this article with others, or invite them to subscribe to our monthly County eNewsletter to stay in the loop of future developments and community happenings.


#1. Will there be FREE SWIM DAYS at the city pools this summer?


The short answer is: YES!

  • FREE Opening Day, June 10, 2019, will take place at Wausau’s Kaiser, Memorial, and Schulenburg Pools.
  • FREE Sundays will rotate among the 3 pools throughout the season, starting with Memorial Pool on June 11, continuing with Schulenburg Pool the next Sunday, and then Kaiser Pool the following week.
  • FREE Thursday nights will take place at all 3 Wausau city pools from 6:00 to 7:50 p.m. throughout the season.
  • A FREE Swim Day will take place Saturday, June 22, at all 3 Wausau city pools in partnership with Marshfield Clinic and Security Health Plan.
  • A FREE Swim Day will take place Tuesday, August 6, at all 3 Wausau city pools and the Marathon Park Splash Pad in partnership with the Marathon County Public Library. One library card gets the whole family in free!
  • A FREE End-of-Season Day will occur at each of the 3 Wausau city pools (the exact days will be announced mid-season).

2019SpringSummer_ParksAndRecGuideGet the scoop on FREE swim days and other recreation opportunities in the handy 2019 Spring/Summer Recreation Guide now available online (and in print at designated places around Marathon County).

#2. Who owns MARATHON PARK?


The Big Kitchen at Marathon Park is one of the reservable shelters available in Marathon County for corporate or family events. Download a PDF brochure with shelter descriptions and rates for 2019–2020, or pick up a brochure at the Park Office (212 River Dr., Suite 2, Wausau).

Ownership of Marathon Park (located at 1201 Stewart Ave., Wausau) was transferred from the Marathon County Agricultural Society to Marathon County on January 7, 1921. The park was dedicated in perpetuity as a public park for the people of Marathon County.

As a condition of the land transfer, the Marathon County Agricultural Society has the right to maintain the Exhibition Building within the park to carry on an agricultural fair every year. In 2018, the Wisconsin Valley Fair proudly celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Exhibition Building in Marathon Park.

The Agricultural Society continues to contribute toward the upkeep and maintenance of fair-related buildings, while the Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department maintains the park grounds, the Splash Pad, and Marathon Junction, as well as its accompanying train.

Marathon Junction and its train will open on Friday, June 7, 2019, and will operate daily from noon to 6 p.m. through Sunday, August 25.

#3. Is there FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE for recreation programs and, if so, who qualifies?


Yes. Financial assistance is available for families who currently qualify for:

  • Free or reduced lunch in area school districts
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Social Security Disability benefits
  • BadgerCare Plus

Qualifying parents can register their children for swimming lessons, morning playgrounds, tennis lessons, and Wausau family pool passes and receive 50% off the cost of the program. There is also a limited amount of special funding from the Wausau Noon Optimists to cover 100% of swimming lesson fees for eligible families.

In addition, families who register for our 2019 Active Family Challenge by April 22 and meet the listed eligibility can register at no cost thanks to a grant from Marshfield Clinic Foundation.

Active Family Challenge Poster - FINAL_000
Learn more about our upcoming Active Family Challenge here.

#4. TIP Strategies’ recent Economic Development Plan suggested that Marathon County might be re-branded as an “outdoor recreation mecca.” What opportunities are there in Marathon County? Are we prepared to host extreme sport events?  


Marathon County offers an abundance of recreational opportunities for all ages:

Other recreational activities include running, walking, swimming, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, tennis, pickleball, camping, bird watching, and ice skating. The opportunities in Marathon County are endless . . .

Many of our City and County facilities are prepared to (or already do) host large-scale sporting events, including extreme sports. Nine-Mile County Forest & Recreation Area is our largest event venue, hosting events such as:

  • The Ragnar Relay
  • Badger State Games
  • Wausau 24
  • High school cross-county running races
  • Nordic ski and snowshoe races

Nine-Mile County Forest & Recreation Area has an amazing collection of mountain biking and cross-country skiing trails. The large parking lot and chalet there can accommodate many racers and spectators.

Wausau’s 400 Block is home to numerous large-scale community events (such as the International Ginseng Festival). In addition, Oak Island and Fern Island Parks offer a unique space for the Blues Fest and other outdoor events.

Marathon County also has a gem in Marathon Park, with:

One challenge we have, though, is our aging infrastructure. Our park and forest facilities can accommodate almost any event; however, they’re aging and require a high level of maintenance and updates. The more use our facilities get, the more attention they will need.

To contribute to being an outdoor recreation mecca, we’ll certainly need to keep our facilities functional, attractive, and modernized. That means having amenities that attract visitors to the area and make them want to stay here and enjoy themselves.

I invite you to read TIP Strategies’ (March 2019) Greater Wausau Region Economic Development Strategic Plan here to learn more about plans to re-brand the Wausau area as an outdoor recreation mecca.


#5. Why do we have a joint City and County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department, and how does it work?


The combined Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department is unique and rare. There aren’t many cities and counties that work together to provide parks, recreation, and forestry services. In our case, it works very well and the City of Wausau contracts with Marathon County to offer its services. Our staff work with both the City Council and the Marathon County Board of Supervisors.

Our department maintains and operates:

  • 17 County Parks
  • 33 City Parks
  • 9 County Forest Units

Within these are specialized facilities that are scheduled, maintained, and managed by the department, such as:

  • 2 Ice sheets
  • A shooting range
  • Eastbay Sports Complex
  • Sunnyvale Softball Complex
  • Sylvan Tubing Hill
  • Marathon Park
  • Athletic Park
  • A skate park
  • Multiple boat launches
  • 3 Outdoor aquatic facilities

The department also maintains 25,000+ street trees in Wausau’s urban forest and offers multiple recreational programs for both City and County residents — from swimming lessons to pickleball.

One benefit of having a joint City / County department is the ability to combine the long-range vision of the County with the long-range vision of the City — moving both along together for the benefit of Marathon County.

*  *  *

I welcome your questions and ideas for the Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department.

Please join us Tuesday, April 30, at 6:00 p.m. at the Marathon County Public Library – Wausau Headquarters (300 N. First St.) as we discuss the results of our recent Parks & Recreation Community Survey conducted as part of our update to the County’s Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. Thank you to all who contributed their opinions to help shape the future of our parks and recreation offerings.

And THANK YOU to the 1,400 children and adults who attended our 46th annual Children’s Festival at Marathon Park East Gate Hall. Over 200 volunteers from service clubs, health providers, government agencies, non-profits, educators, and fitness centers helped to put on the annual community event.

Two girls show off the wooden vehicles they built at the 46th annual Children’s Festival in Marathon Park. (Photo courtesy of Karyn Powers.)

Jamie_PolleyJamie Polley

Director  |  Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department

Jamie Polley is the Director of Parks, Recreation, & Forestry for the City of Wausau and Marathon County. She is a native of Marathon County and after living in Minnesota for 11 years, she made her way back home in 2018. Jamie is excited to lead this unique City/County department forward and tell the story of what the Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department is and does so that all citizens know of the opportunities available to them. Jamie has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science and a master’s degree in Sports Management. Outside of work, Jamie is an avid runner and loves to spend time with her family enjoying the outdoors.  Email Jamie Polley.

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