By C.M. Swanson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Regional visitor's center in the works


People make up our government, real people with conviction to activate, not just talk. However, they like to talk, too. That’s what makes meetings like the Regional Visitor’s Center’s first meeting, held Monday, September 9 at 5 p.m. in the Moose Lake City Hall’s Conference Room, so interesting.

What made it fun was the wit and charm of the people who cared enough to attend rather than go home after work to veg out.

The meeting was attended by Veronica Fenice, Executive Director of the Moose Lake Chamber of Commerce whose organizational skills are jaw dropping; city administrator Pat Oman who had done so much background work he became the point person for information; Amy Perrine, president of the Moose Lake Chamber of Commerce, and Deb Mohelski, chamber board member, both who asked steadfast questions that sharpened and focused the concept; and Patty Frye, vice president of the chamber whose watchful eye served as an anchor in reality.

So as to make good use of the time allotted for any other interested party to attend, the group threw out a variety of casual facts for general education, including, but not limited to the fact that, in Mixed Marshal Arts Boxing there are two rules, no hitting below the belt and no elbowing.

When it was decided that enough time had passed, even for late-comers to attend, the concept meeting officially began. Oman set the tone.

“This is just a start meeting,” said Oman. “This is where it all begins.”

The concept is to develop a regional visitor’s bureau that would encompass a number of communities and townships in the county, sharing resources and costs.

Potential communities include Barnum, Cromwell, Kettle River, Moose Lake Township, Mahtowa, Barnum Township, Wright, Sturgeon Lake and others that may find the concept valuable.

“The reason I thought these were all good communities to look at is because all of them bring something to the table when we go down the path of a lodging tax, if we were ever to do that,” said Oman.

“Essentially they all have a park, a place for people to camp; they all have a hotel or motel. They have something that could bring revenue into the visitor’s bureau to assist it.”

Sharing costs is a significant benefit to forming a regional visitor’s center.

“It’s easier to pool all that money,” said Oman. “For example, instead of doing eight informational brochures you can do a brochure with eight things in it.”

Contacting each community to gauge interest is another of the beginning steps. If a community is interested in the concept, a public hearing will be held to inform community residents and business owners about the steps involved.

If a community has no interest or does not want to participate, there is no mandatory involvement.

Creating a suitable name of the visitor’s bureau is another aspect of planning.

“This isn’t just a Moose Lake thing,” said Oman. “All these communities understand that if it would be a regional visitors bureau, call it a different name, something to accurately represent the region.”

Oman pointed out that campgrounds, rivers, lakes, Old Highway 61 and Highway 73 are just some of the many geographic aspects that draw the communities together, which would assist in naming the visitor’s center and its marketing focus.

Other questions to answer include housing, staff and funding resources. The group welcomes such inquiries from area residents and business owners.

“Ask tough questions,” said Oman. “That’s only going to make the project stronger, to have answers.”

With the many steps involved, and this being only a concept meeting, there will be time for interested parties to become involved.

“Obviously this is going to take some time,” said Oman as the meeting progressed. “Keep in mind, before this thing gets officially set up, there are some pretty major steps here.”

“The ones who want to do it will do it,” said Frye. “They’re going to buy in right away. They’re going to see the value.”

Time frames will depend on communities involved.

“Since we are getting into the fall, this is probably a good time to do it,” said Oman. “Maybe, if you plan it right, this could be up and running next summer. Nothing says it can’t be. It’s really up to those communities.”

Interested parties may contact the Moose Lake Chamber of Commerce with comments or questions.


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