Wisconsin's two National Parks brought in 274,000 visitors in 2012. The latest report says that translates into millions of dollars for local businesses.
In 2012, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore had 163,000 visitors, while the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway had 221,000 tourists. A just-released National Park Service report says that adds up to $28 million and 442 jobs in towns next to the parks.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore's Julie Van Stappen says a partnership with towns like Bayfield, Cornucopia and Red Cliff benefit everyone.
“We work very closely with all the communities — especially with [the] current ice caves, we've worked very closely with everyone. Everyone has pitched in and it's been very positive,” Van Stappen said.
The ice caves have attracted more than 100,000 visitors since access opened to them in mid-January.
St. Croix National Scenic Waterway in western Wisconsin injects almost $9 million into the 230-mile-long river area. The waterway's Julie Galonska says it's about partnerships.
“We really work closely with many of the communities that are neighbors to the riverway,” Galonska said. “We work very closely with a lot of business operators, especially outfitters who utilize the riverway. We have great partnerships along the Namekagon and St. Croix [rivers] so we really see it as a win-win for everyone.”
The economic impact includes groceries, restaurants, lodging and outfitters, including Bog Lake Outfitters on Madeline Island next to the Apostle Islands Lakeshore. Owner Rose Fahien says they get more than financial spin-off.
“It keeps the property in the area pristine, which possibly, if it were not a National Lakeshore, that would not be the case,” Fahien said.
Fahien says that benefits the uncounted blue heron, eagles, beaver, and other wildlife that draw the visitors to National Parks.