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Tourism Alliance Seeks Definition Of Purpose

Issue Date: September 27, 2018

If the Marinette County Development Committee agrees, the Tourism Alliance Committee will be reinventing itself in the months to come. Since the Alliance ceased being an independent body and became a county committee a dozen years ago, there has been increasing frustration on the part of volunteers who serve on it because their purpose is no longer clearly defined and all their authority for oversight and input has been removed.

At the Alliance meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 19, County Administrator John LeFebvre discussed his conclusion that a County Board resolution adopted in February of 2015 to make the tourism coordinator a county employee also negated previous references to the Alliance Committee as a quasi-independent body with its own set of operating procedures and eliminated its authority for oversight tourism promotion activities, putting the whole tourism program under the County Administrator. The Alliance had been separated from Marinette County Association for Business and Industry in 2006 and placed under the direct jurisdiction of Marinette County, although for a time it was operated under the umbrella of the Marinette Menominee area Chamber of Commerce.

He agreed with committee frustration that nothing states the purpose of the Alliance, which is made up mainly of volunteers representing various county communities and organizations. The only two paid members are appointed by the Development Committee.

Originally the Alliance was created to have responsibility for tourism advertising, finances and budgeting, publication of the Tourist Guide, and was assigned to work out partnering agreements for advertising and trade show attendance with county businesses, business organizations, and individual communities as well as develop tourism events and training programs.

The Sept. 19 meeting at Crivitz Village Hall was the first in two months. Present were Shirley Prudhomme, member at large; Randy Polson, representing the Snowmobile Alliance/Iron Snowshoe; Supervisors Bonnie Popp and Clancy Whiting, Development Committee; Supervisor Tricia Grebin, at-large representative for northern areas of the county; Sally Witt, vice chair, Crivitz Business Association, and Lindsay Callow, Peshtigo Chamber of Commerce. Members absent were Shelly Lindner, Marinette Area Chamber of Commerce, and Chair Liz Chapman, of Crivitz Recreation Association. Others present were Maggie Kailhofer, administrator of Gov. Thompson State Park, LeFebvre, and County Supervisor Ginger Deschane, who represents Crivitz on County Board.

That meeting was the first in two months. The August meeting was cancelled for lack of a quorum.

After some discussion committee members present unanimously approved a motion made by Prudhomme and supported by Polson to request approval from the Development Committee of the Marinette County Board to draft a document identifying the Alliance's purpose and responsibilities for consideration by the Development Committee.

Before the vote, Whiting declared he had been prepared to make a motion to dissolve the Alliance, describing it as "a do-nothing group."

Several members mentioned the possibility of a Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB), which is the vehicle used by many other counties to promote tourism. LeFebvre said he has been looking into that possibility, and ways that it could be funded. Some members suggested Popp could provide valuable input on that subject since she had spent eight years as executive director of a VCB in another area.

Polson said despite lack of real authority, the information Alliance members share at meetings about upcoming events is important for all the small businesses scattered throughout the county and makes the meetings worthwhile. He reminded the group that those small businesses, most of them tourist-related, pay property taxes and collect the sales taxes that support Alliance activities and tourism advertising.

At the start of the meeting Callow was welcomed as the new Peshtigo Chamber representative. She reported on Peshtigo Historical Day activities set for Saturday, Sept 29.

Witt commented unfortunately the annual Crivitz Fall Harvest Fest had been set for the same date. it will be held at Crivitz High School.

Popp reported the High Falls Muskie Tournament will be held the weekend of Oct. 12 through 14. The event is sponsored by fishing tour guide Mike Mladnik, Popp's Resort and High Falls Resort. Fee is $60 per boat, with two fishermen per boat.

Kailhofer said Fall Color Weekend at Gov. Thompson State Park would be Friday and Saturday, Sept.29 and 30, which is generally the weekend that maples reach their color peak. She noted this has been a giant acorn year. The flowages have been busy all year and so has the park, Kailhofer said.

Wausaukee Harvest Fest is set for Saturday, Oct 6.

Grebin reported the Goodman Harvest Fest will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Witt gave advance notice of the Crivitz Christmas parade to be held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with the theme "Small Town Christmas, Past, Present and Future." The day will be complete with sleigh rides with Santa and special sales offered by local merchants.

There was talk of ways to encourage communities and organizations to list their events on the county calendar of events, which is also posted on the tourism website, therealnorth.com.

Grebin wondered what the policy is about promoting events from other counties on the Marinette County tourism website, and no one knew. Witt commented the Alliance should develop one, and LeFebvre declared that would be up to the Development Committee.

He explained the current process for getting events on the county calendar. It can be done directly by going to the web site, but LeFebvre's assistant then posts the events. He said events are things that would attract visitors, while other listings are mainly for local residents. LeFebvre said his office has an agreement to provide information to the Marinette/Menominee Eagle Herald newspaper, but what they print is up to them. They will not print commercial event information, but it will be listed on the county tourism website.

Anyone, profit or not for profit, can submit information about their event to therealnorth.com and it will be listed, LeFebvre said.

Witt said the Crivitz calendar of events also covers a wide area of the county and urged people to use it.

LeFebvre said he had recently spent a day with County Forest and Parks Administrator Pete Vilas, and both of them have some ideas for improvements to the parks. He said he is trying to get all the waterfalls on the Parks Department radar, as trails to them need some improvements and those not in parks have been a bit neglected. He had personally visited all the waterfalls in the past few weeks. He said they are now trying to put one parks caretaker in charge of the waterfalls, and are hoping to set up a good rating system so visitors know the difficulty of the trails, walking distance, and more. Signage is a big thing, he said, agreeing with a concern the Alliance has been expressing for a few years. He said they perhaps also should put restroom facilities at the falls, even if it means an open pit privy at the more remote ones. Also he felt they might add some handicapped viewing platforms.

He said they are keeping seasonal parks employees on longer in the season so they can get more work done.

Witt said she has had many, many complaints from customers about the increases in park entry fees, which rose recently from $2 to $5 for day use stickers and from $12 to $20 for annual stickers.

LeFebvre said the fees were raised so they could afford to make more improvements at the parks and keep the caretakers on longer in the season. Witt felt there should then be more publicity on the reasons.

LeFebvre said they are looking at when and where park fees should be charged, and may eliminate fees entirely at some of the smaller and less popular parks. He also said there is talk of discounts on annual sticker fees for county property owners.

Deschane suggested putting annual stickers on sale early, as she felt they would make good Christmas gifts.

LeFebvre said they are looking at adding Internet access at Twin Bridge Park and expanding the swimming beach there.

There have been conflicts at Twin Bridge between people using the beach and boaters coming there from the flowage. Popp wondered if the stone area by the beach could be restored to beach use.

Twin Bridge campsites are now available by reservation only, and LeFebvre said there have been lots of good comments. Kailhofer, whose Gov. Thompson Park entrance is very near Twin Bridge, said they have been hearing about that a lot too."Everybody without a smart phone comes and camps with us," she commented.

Grebin said she and her family do a lot of thinking and they like places that have a post with a distance sign and map at the trail head. LeFebvre said Marinette County does that at the Lake Mary and Thunder Mountain walking trails and at some waterfalls.

There was discussion on the activities report from Tourism Director Melissa Ebsch, who is hired by the City of Marinette but contracted through the city to provide half time tourism director services for the county.

As of Aug. 8, Ebsch had reached out to all communities to meet and discuss their tourism needs, wants and suggestions. She had already met with people in Crivitz, Coleman, Pound, Wausaukee, Marinette, and Pembine.

She had been setting up micro-caches for geo-caching at boat launches, waterfalls, campgrounds, historical locations, parks, etc. throughout the county, participated in the City of Marinette's "Trout and About, " and is collecting information on all 30 communities in the county for the 2019 tourism guide. LeFebvre said Ebsch had obtained a 1900s tourist guide from Wausaukee Village President Slug Radtke and liked the looks of it, so she is trying to build on it. She is seeking grants for which tourist events in the county might qualify, and is currently helping the county Parks Department apply for a GEM grant that might help fund a new annual event over a three-year period. He felt they might start with an event at Camp Bird. Committee members had some suggestions, but no action was taken.

Ebsch, in her report to County Board in August, had urged communities and organizations to get information to her early about their events so she can include them in the new tourist information website, and also can get on the state website and into their visitor guide booklets.

Whiting announced that the 4-Seasons Resort at Pembine will be re-opening on a limited basis in December, and is now owned by Lakeshore Management, LLC, along with Pine Mountain, its sister resort in Michigan.


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