Talks Continue On Vending In Parks Issue Date: March 12, 2014
Despite strong misgivings voiced by Twin Bridge area businessmen Ron Krull and Jim Liska, at a meeting on Friday, March 7, Marinette County Parks and Forestry Committee members agreed to pursue the possibility of allowing vendors in at least some of the more remote county campgrounds. Committee members assured Liska and Krull that conditions at Morgan Park, where they hope to start a mobile vending permit system this year, are entirely different than at Twin Bridge.
Campers at Morgan Park who want to buy supplies, ice cream or other treats must make a 12-mile round trip to the nearest business place. And a local businessman very interested in establishing at least an ice cream vending route in the park has spoken with the committee several times in hopes that the opportunity will be made available. The committee at previous meetings had asked department staff to obtain information on how other counties handle this issue, and has also indicated informally that they would like to start on a trial basis this spring at Morgan Park. There would probably need to be a bid process to select a vendor service, but no details have been worked out.
Assistant Parks and Forestry Administrator Dave Marquardt at the March 7 meeting expressed doubt they could have anything in place for this year.
Neither Liska nor Krull has ever visited Morgan Park. Liska owns and operates the Country Convenience Store, and Krull owns and operates an ice cream shop on County W, five or six miles from the park entrance.
The meeting started with the happy announcement by Marquardt that pictures taken at Daves Falls Park near Amberg were aired on Channel 11 television twice on the evening of Thursday, March 6 and again on Friday morning. The park photos are also shown on the stations web site.
Forest and Parks Administrator Pete Vilas said it sounds like the cameramen want to come back in spring or summer for more photos.
Supervisor Ken Mattison, a member of the committee who represents the Amberg area, informally passed out photos of a monument people from Amberg would like to put up in the parking lot of Daves Falls Park and asked that the suggestion be put on the agenda for the April meeting. He said there will be a plaque explaining the Parks name, which commemorates a logger who drowned in the rapids there during a log drive in the heyday of logging in Marinette County.
Next came the discussion with Krull and Liska. Krull said they had both become quite upset when they read reports about plans to allow vendors in the county parks.
We stuck hundreds of thousands of dollars into our businesses to serve our people, Krull declared. Last week we had an eight week summer! He said he and Liska, and possibly others, offer delivery service into Twin Bridge Park, and their profit margins are so small that every little bit hurts.
I took a risk to leave my job and invest a quarter of a million dollars here, Krull said. We pay property taxes, and now along comes a guy who spends $5,000 for a delivery truck who could put Jim and me out of business.
He said if the vendors would force businesses to close the parks might actually lose campers because there would be no place to buy essentials like gasoline.
I think in the long run this will come around to hurt you, Krull declared. I think its wrong you are even considering this!
Liska noted he serves on the Town of Stephenson Plan Commission. We pay property taxes. We pay employee taxes, he said. We give donations to support the fire department, the ski teams, the rescue squad, and other charities, and pay dues to Crivitz Recreation Association to help promote the area. We buy licenses, federal permits, food service certificates, and other permits. We pay to have our wells tested....all this for someone to come in and sell below us!
He said this was a bad winter, and if there are a couple more like it there may not be any businesses left up there. He predicted some businesses will close in the near future anyway.
Both men referred to the permit fee the Parks Department would likely collect for allowing vendors in the parks. However at previous meetings the vendors were viewed by committee members more as service providers for the convenience of campers than adding income for the county.
Marquardt noted that last month the committee had asked him to look at the Winnebago County rules for vendors, and he had copies from which he had deleted items he knew they didnt want sold in the parks, for example alcohol. He agreed with the two men that they should take their time on the vendor issue, and expressed doubt they could be ready to go in May.
Russ Bousley assured Krull and Liska that they were not planning to get into the vending quickly, and were not planning to start at Twin Bridge. He said their idea was to do the campers a favor. He assured them there are no businesses in Pembine that object to allowing a vendor to sell in Morgan Park, and said the person interested is in fact a Pembine businessman, although they would need to open up the possibility to others who may be interested.
Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison in the past has rejected the vendor idea, and Forest and Parks Administrator Pete Vilas told the committee, she still has a whole lot of questions to be answered.
Committee response at this meeting and in the past is that other counties do it, so there must be ways to handle it sensibly and legally.
Krull said last summer there was at least one individual selling burgers, ice cream and candy from his boat on High Falls Flowage.
Committee Chair Bill Walker said this committee has nothing to do with that. He added his family camped a lot, and he and his children were always delighted when an ice cream truck came through.
Krull said he does not solicit business in the park but will deliver ice cream to the beach if someone calls.
Supervisor Al Mans told them things may get better for their businesses in a few years. The county is planning to put in a whole new campground loop expansion at Twin Bridge. Liska agreed that just putting the showers had helped a lot.
Supervisor Larry Nichols said they had just put in showers at Morgan Park and added a whole new loop there that they want filled. He said todays campers appreciate convenience.
Mans said a big concern at Morgan Park is the 12-mile trip to get a bag of ice.
As the discussion went on Vilas again said he and Marquardt had talked, And were not even thinking of having anything in place for this year...We want to take our time.
Bousley suggested that Liska and Krull should go to Morgan Park and some of the other more remote parks, promising them, Youll see the difference. He said the only restaurant in Pembine closes at 2 p.m.
Liska said he realizes there are differences between the parks, and appreciates that the committee is looking at those differences.
The committee agreed to take no action for now, but unanimously approved a motion by Nichols to put on the agenda again for the April meeting.
Recent stories, opinions and photos