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Forest industry, recreation a winning combination for Florence County

Progress 2020

FLORENCE, Wis. — Who would have thought that 2020 would bring so many struggles when the economy was booming, unemployment was at record lows and the Florence County business community was looking forward to another big summer tourism season.

But then COVID 19 shut down all but the essential businesses in late March, with gradual reopening for select businesses through mid-May, and a complete reopening May 28 for all businesses while following recommended safety precautions.

Our 28 supper clubs, taverns and cafes are a great place to escape the restrictions and relax. We are fortunate to live in a county where residents, agencies and elected officials continue to work together to make things better.

Forest products is Florence County’s top industry with five sawmills, loggers and foresters accounting for 242 jobs, $51.3 million of economic output and $8.1 million payroll supporting our trade region.

In 2019, a $420,000 grant from the state was used to extend road, sewer and water north of the industrial park to the newly built G&G Lumber.

Tourism is the second largest industry in Florence County thanks to 200,000-plus acres of public land with all types of motorized and non-motorized trails and facilities. The www.BlueOxTrailRiders.org folks volunteer hours of time maintaining 160 miles of ATV/UTV trails and routes with connections to other county trails.

Keyes Peak Recreation Area offers a park with sandy beach and raft for swimming, a newly renovated boat launch, an 18-hole disc golf course, a set of climbing stairs to the top of Keyes Peak for exercise and great pictures as well as a full-log lodge available to rent for weddings and events.

In addition, www.NaturesWaterPark.com now offers guided waterfall hikes, guided paddle trips and of course the wildly popular tube rentals at the Pine River Oxbow on County N.

There are options for everyone to explore the 151 miles of state-designated Pine and Popple Wild Rivers. You can hike to seven waterfalls, fish for trout near the falls or the cold water tributaries, kayak or canoe on slow water or fast water, paddleboard on the Pine River Flowage or Oxbow, hike and pick berries on the 8,400-acre Spread Eagle Barrens State Natural Area or camp anywhere along the rivers on Nicolet National Forest lands.

A nine-minute video about the 60-foot, newly named Breakwater Falls, the sixth- largest waterfall in Wisconsin, will go live during a virtual video premiere event on July 9. Go to www.ExploreFlorenceCounty.com to register for this free showing soon.

In addition to lots of other recreational information on the website, make sure to stop by the Visitor Center on the corner of Highway 70 and U.S. 2 for brochures and ask questions of the helpful staff. You can also explore the gift shop, wildlife mounts, interpretive displays and dog park located there. A newly opened retail shop, Seven1Five Outpost, in downtown Florence, also offer gifts, ice cream and more.

Florence County has done studies to define the need and ability to support a 35-unit assisted living facility, a 35- to 40-room hotel and mid-priced housing including both homes and rental units. If you are interested in working with us to develop these projects, please call me at 715-528-3294.

There are possible incentives to help. Florence County continues to grow the business, community and recreational offerings that our residents and visitors need and enjoy. Why not join us?

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