A Great Place to Visit
While the warm days of summer might seem like a long way away, the signs are unmistakable. Marsh Marigolds are blooming along the Red Cedar River and the peepers are screeching in Price County. And starting this weekend, you’re likely to see visitors to local streams and lakes with their fishing gear. One of those visitors could be the man who delivers the mail to my Capitol office in Madison. I remember what he said the first time I met him after I started in the State Senate. “I love it up North, it’s such a great place to visit.”
He’s right, in addition to being a great place to live, it is a great place to visit. We have updated figures showing just how important tourism is to our state’s economy, especially in the North. In the 13 counties I have the privilege to represent, over 15% of our workforce contributes to Wisconsin’s tourism success.
The first week in May is National Travel and Tourism Week, America's annual salute to travel and tourism. It’s a great reminder of the benefits that visitors to our region provide. A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 232,662 visitors to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in 2015 spent $36 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 571 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $44 million. According to a recently released report, Wisconsin’s overall tourism economy topped $19 billion in 2015.
While facts and figures tell some of the story, those of us lucky enough to share the hospitality of our neighbors and businesses know that it is not just the unmatched natural beauty of the North that draws so many to Northern Wisconsin. From the Delta Diner just up the road from my house in Delta down to Lehman’s Supper Club in Rice Lake and over to The Pines in Mercer, hundreds of businesses run by hard-working, outgoing people make visitors feel welcome enough to come back season after season, year after year.
We are blessed to be surrounded by the Apostle Island National Lakeshore, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, tributaries and portions of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and a vital leg of the North Country Scenic Trail. This year marks the 100th year of the National Park Service. I was proud to author legislation adopted by the Senate to commemorate this anniversary. I was even more thrilled to hear from a constituent whose father had been among the thousands who came to see President Kennedy speak at the Ashland airport when he came to tour the newly created Apostle Island National Lakeshore. Our region wouldn’t be the driving force in tourism that it is without the legacy of all those who joined in the effort to preserve these National Parks.
I’m proud to join my colleagues on the state’s Tourism Council and leaders across the North in highlighting the excellent work of those in our tourism industry. And like all of you, I’m ready for a great summer as we head to the woods, trails, lakes and streams that are so unique to an area I’m proud to call home.