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Vilas County tourism thrives in 2012Submitted: 06/18/2013
Story By Lauren Stephenson


BOULDER JUNCTION - Usually when you watch the news, you hear about how bad the economy is.

Jobs are down, home sales are sluggish, and people aren't spending money.

But one Northwoods county stands out.

Tourism spending went up a full 10% in Vilas County in 2012.

Both small business owners and Vilas County's Tourism and Publicity Department say they're thriving because they're working together.

John and Sue Altschwager manage the White Birch Village Resort.

When the economy collapsed in 2008, most of their returning guests shortened their vacations.

The Altschwagers had to find new ways to bring in visitors.

"The first step obviously was become active in our local chambers of commerce. And participate in the activities and participate in town, which hadn't happened a lot in the past," John Altschwager said.

They also revamped their website, and joined Facebook.

Going to sporting shows and promoting their winter ice fishing packages also proved to be a success.

"We tend to find that once we get people here, get people to the area, and they see what's offered, we got them," Altschwager said.

They also get new customers by word of mouth.

One of their most loyal customers,Robert Kurzweil, says he's introduced over 30 people to the resort.

"My wife and I come in the spring and in the fall, and then the whole family in July. And there's roughly 38 of us, all family, friends, neighbors. It's wonderful. We have a lot of fun."

Altschwager says it's up to all business owners to bring the tourism industry back.

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PLUM LAKE - St. Germain ATV riders will need to find a new route that avoids Plum Lake.

That's because the Plum Lake Town Board voted against opening up parts of two roads: Kurtzweil Road and Birch Spring Road. Both are on the border of Sayner and St. Germain and are shared between the two towns.

A few months ago, St. Germain asked Plum Lake to open parts of those roads as part of an ATV route. At first, the Plum Lake Town Board approved them. That was before they found out a section of Kurtzweil Road was completely in Plum Lake.

"At that time the Plum Lake Town Board by a 2 to 1 vote approved letting them use that, assuming at the time the two roads were boundary roads equally shared by Sayner and St. Germain," said Will Maines, the Plum Lake Town Chairman.

So when St. Germain came back to the next town meeting with an ordinance for the roads ready to go, the Plum Lake town board then voted no.

Maines said most of the people in Plum Lake don't want ATVs on their town roads. The board found this out from a survey of residents and taxpayers they sent out in 2015, where he said about two-thirds of non-resident property owners and about two-thirds of Plum Lake resident voters voted against allowing ATVs on town roads.

"We'd like to cooperate with the town of St. Germain, but we represent the people of Plum Lake, and they have given us the message loud and clear: they don't want us to allow them on any section of our roads," Maines said.

The St. Germain Town Chairman Tom Christensen said the decision is "disappointing," but, "it is what it is."

About 6 towns in the eastern part of Vilas County allow ATVs on town roads, but the towns in the western part of the county don't allow them on town roads.

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