Oconto County businesses feel absence of ATV riders

OCONTO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Oconto County has more than 450 miles of ATV/UTV trails, all of which are closed right now due to storm damage.

Not a good sign for businesses in the area after the trails opened late this year due to a wet spring, and now closures during what would normally be the busiest time of the season.

“Within this last week, we've had a multitude of cancellations,” said Beth Reed, one of the owners of Maple Heights Campground in Lakewood.

Destruction from storms on July 19 and 20 can still be seen throughout the campground, but that’s not what’s driving people away.

“We had a camper come in today [Monday] with a toy hauler and they checked in and everything, and everything was great until they realized they weren't going to be able to access the ATV trail. They packed up and got a refund and left,” said Reed.

The ATV trail is less than a mile from the campground, making it a big reason why people stay at Maple Heights.

The same situation happened last week, only this time it was a group of people who reserved five campsites for the week.

“When they found out the ATV trails were going to be closed they did a cancellation, that easily cost us a matter of $1,500, if not more,” said Reed.

Meanwhile, the Red Arrow Snowmobile-ATV Club, which manages upkeep of the trails, is left idle.

“Where we're at right now is probably one of the worst places. It’s a bunch of trees all snaggled together and it's way above a club's capacity, pay grade and knowledge,” said President of the club, Gary Wagner.

Forest, parks and recreation personal will survey the damage over the next few weeks, so the trails remain closed until further notice.

“Our businesses count on it and we count on our business and we're all in this together, it hurts everybody, it hurts everybody deeply; and as soon as we get these trails open, we want to get them open,” said Wagner.

Click here to access the GoFundMe page to help cleanup the Oconto County Trail System.

Wagner says worst case scenario is the trails don't open the rest of the season, but hope they open back up in time for snowmobile season.

Mountain in Oconto County is putting together a two day multi-agency resource center for those who are still in need of any assistance.

Information and agencies will be available including the American Red Cross, Oconto County Department of Public Health, Christian Food Pantry, and many more resources for crisis counseling, economic support and development, and animal assistance.

The event will take place Tuesday July 30th and Wednesday July 31st from noon to 6 p.m. It is located at the Mountain Community Center, 13412 Highways 32 & 64.