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After a dismal winter for snowmobile traffic, Oconto County businesses now welcome ATV riders

Posted at 5:52 PM, May 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 18:52:08-04

There is economic optimism among business owners in Oconto County who rely on visitors from the Nicolet State Trail, after the trail recently opened to ATV traffic after a difficult snowmobiling season.

  • The Nicolet State Trail in Oconto County is back open to ATV traffic
  • Multiple business owners welcome the traffic back, after a difficult season with a lack of snowmobile riders
  • Click here to see the status of trails in Oconto County

(The following is a transcript of the broadcast story.)

I'm Jon Erickson in Oconto County.

This is the Nicolet State Trail, it's back open to ATV riders. Business owners in the area tell me, that means a lot after a really tough snowmobiling season...

In the Northwoods, the bears can take the trails on any day they want.

It's different though for ATV's.

But as of last weekend, the Nicolet State Trail is back open to ATV's.

The state trail is nicknamed "the grade."

[Reporter Jon Erickson spoke with Mike Richling, the owner of Animal's Bear Trail Bar and Grill, near Mountain.]

"What does the grade opening back up mean for your business, Mike?" [Jon Erickson asked.]

"Oh, tons. It will be non-stop from here 'til November," [Mike Richling said.]

[A photo from Richling shows ATV's outside his business, after a tough winter with a lack of snowmobiling.]

"Every business up here took a hit," [Richling said.]

Nearby, Ann Maletzke echoed that.

She and her husband own Spur of the Moment Ranch, and she's a board member of the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce.

Maletzke says cabin bookings here were down 80 percent this winter, and there wasn't a single snowmobiler who stayed.

"It was tough, there were days where you would go out to Highway 32, and there would be not a soul, you could roll a bowling ball down there," [Maletzke said.]

But there's a hope to see a lot more [ATV's nearby]...

The ranch is right off the Nicolet State Trail, so potential customers, don't have to go far.