EAGLE RIVER - The City of Eagle River saw more revenue from tourists in 2012 than ever before.
According to the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce, businesses can thank a number of year-round special events for the increase in customers.
"We strategically do events throughout the complete season... In other words there's events in the winter, spring, summer and fall, and just different things to bring different people to the area. We continue to try to make them grow, and continue to look for new ways and new things to do to bring people to the area," said Conrad Heeg, Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce Director.
Some of those events include the US Pond Hockey Tournament, Klondike days, Cranberryfest, The World Championship Snowmobile Derby, and Journey's marathon.
The chamber also draws people in by advertising Eagle River and its events as far away as Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.
"People come from those distances to come here to do things, well they're automatically going to stay overnight. And if they stay overnight they're spending money on lodging, to buy gas to go shopping to go to dinner," said Heeg.
Chamber Director Heeg, also credits their database of more than 400 volunteers for making the many large-scale events possible.
FOREST COUNTY - Forest Count and Wisconsin Off-Road Vehicle Park Inc. (WORVPI) have found a 10,000 acre plot of land they would like to buy for an off-road park, according to WORVPI President John Schnorr.
Schnorr wouldn't discuss the exact location in Forest County, but said they would hope to buy the parcels by June 2014. Right now they’re contracting an engineering firm to evaluate the land.
"That's so environmental concerns can be met," Schnorr said. "We'll look at that as well as a pleasurable experience for an off-road visitor who is going to come up and spend hopefully a weeks vacation in Forest County."
Forest County leaders believe an off-road park could help bring more tourists to the area, and with that more money. The county has the fifth worst unemployment rate, 7.9 percent, in Wisconsin.
WORVPI used Ripon College to perform a feasibility study on the off-road park. It says the average off-roader will travel 300 miles to visit an off-road park. It also projected an off-road park could bring in nearly $28 million per year for Forest County businesses.
"It will take us some time to operate and open it up and develop the trails, the camp sites, the amenities inside," Schnorr said. "Realistically we could see an opening date of Memorial Day of 2015."
The park would host ATVs, motorcycles and other vehicles on off-road trails.
People can help fund the park by purchasing $150 charter membership passes. More than 30 have already been purchased. Schnorr says only 100 will be available.
"The pass will entitle the holder to a park pass, an annual park pass, for the first year when the park opens," Schnorr said. "It will give us some capital up front and afford them a discounted price down the road."
Even with the progress, Schnorr says the project is still in the early stages.
"If you are an optimist, you think a huge amount of progress has been made," Schnorr said. "But if you are a pessimist, not enough progress has been made."
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