Florence County receives grant money to promote wild rivers


Staff Writer

FLORENCE, Wis. – Florence County officials are hoping to increase tourism to the county’s two designated wild rivers with the help of an $18,935 Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) grant.

Representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism presented the grant check to the Florence County Economic Development Commission (EDC) on Wednesday.

EDC Director Wendy Gehlhoff explained that Florence County is home to two of Wisconsin’s five designated wild rivers.

In 1965, the Wisconsin state legislature established the wild rivers system in order to allow residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy natural rivers in a free-flowing condition and to protect the rivers from development.

Both the 89-mile-long Pine River and the 62-mile-long Popple River flow wild through Florence County. The rivers boast a total of seven waterfalls and six rapids and offer opportunities for experienced and novice paddling, as well as hiking and fishing.

“We have these wonderful wild rivers and they’re just signed as normal rivers,” said Gehlhoff. “I wanted our travelers and visitors to know these rivers are unique.”

Grant money will be used from April through October of next year for the following purposes:

– Adding descriptive signage on a 100-mile loop through the county, creating a “Wild River Tour” for visitors to follow. There will be 15 stops on the tour that will highlight paddling access points, waterfalls, and other features.

– Developing a mobile app that will help mobile device users find the 15 stops and other items of interest.

– Advertising the tour in print, radio, and online media.

Gehlhoff estimates that the project will have a $91,800 local impact through travelers spending money at hotels, restaurants, and stores.

Wisconsin State Senator Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, also attended Wednesday’s check presentation.

“Tourism is such an important part of what we do here in northern Wisconsin,” he said. “There are some great assets up here.”

Sarah Pischer of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism pointed out that this JEM grant is the second one given to Florence County this year.

In July, Florence County received a $6,881 JEM grant to promote the inaugural Badwater Bash and Bass Tourney at Vagabond Park in Spread Eagle, Wis.

The two grants were among 56 JEM grants awarded by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism in fiscal year 2013. All together, grants totaled nearly $1.2 million.

JEM grants are available to non-profit organizations for the promotion of Wisconsin tourism.

They can fund up to 75 percent of a project’s advertising and marketing costs in the first year, 50 percent in the second year, and 25 percent in the third year. The rest of the money must come from a local match.

Project organizers must re-apply for the JEM grant in each of the three years.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is