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Let’s take time on Three Lakes ATV issue PDF Print E-mail

Letter to the Editor:

First of all, let me state that I not speaking from my position as chair of the Three Lakes Natural-Cultural Resources Committee, but as private citizen.

A lot of emphasis is being placed on justifying ATV routes in the town of Three Lakes for the economic benefits they will provide. I do not believe the ATV club needs economic justification — it has a right to exist on its own merits. If there is a responsible group of town citizens with a legitimate interest, I think it ought to be respected and considered for that alone.

And that’s a good thing, because my research shows that the economic benefits might not match some people’s expectations. I began by surveying 12 motels spanning the North Woods ATV use area, from Mountain to Mercer. Starting with Mountain at the southeast end, Ann Maletzke at Spur of Moment Ranch stated that on a good weekend up to 30% of their business is ATVers. Closer to home, Four Seasons Motel in Crandon gets only 2% to 5% ATVer occupancy.

Why is this? It simply means that the further away you are from a big city, the fewer out-of-area ATVers you are going to attract.

Maletzke said that most of her ATV business is from Green Bay — Mountain is closest Nicolet National Forest town — whereas Crystal Guither, manager of the Crandon Best Western, said that what ATV business they do get is nearly all local. According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism March 2004 Economic Profile of ATV Users, 55% of ATV users in the northeast region of the state come from the Green Bay area, but apparently few of them make it this far.

That brings up another economic factor that my research showed will likely to affect us: the spur-and-hub community relationship. Three Lakes is a spur (or feeder) community, which means that we don’t have much to offer ATVers — they are probably going to hop on their machines and head out to an ATV hub area that has developed trails.

Is it possible, then, that Three Lakes could experience a net economic loss? That is hard to assess, as the Department of Tourism data does not do a good job of separating “new money” from the total spent by ATVers. Being a spur community, we may not see much new money.

One observation that surfaced in my survey is that nearly all resort towns with a high-lake density do not allow ATV usage in their residential or business districts. Tomahawk was the only exception — they allow ATVs in the alleys behind downtown businesses.

In contrast, many low-lake density towns, such as Wausaukee, Townsend and Mountain, allow ATVs in most or all of their residential and business districts.

In closing, I want to state that I am concerned about the divisiveness that is starting to surface in Three Lakes over the ATV issue. I’d rather not see it pushed to a vote here, because no matter who wins, there is going to be a loser. I believe we can create a win-win situation.

Our ATV club has been organizing for six months; let’s give the rest of our community the same amount of time for the research and consideration this important issue deserves. Two-thirds of our friends and neighbors are not here in the wintertime —let’s give them the courtesy of waiting for them to come back so that we can sit down with them and talk this over face-to-face.

Tamarack Song

Three Lakes

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 4:19 PM

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