It’s not every day that a story goes viral and draws thousands of visitors from around the world to your community. That is exactly what happened with the announcement of access being open to the ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore for the first time in five years. “Although we are really glad to have them, this is sort of a spontaneous mega-event with no infrastructure to handle the numbers of people that suddenly showed up” says Mary Motiff, Bayfield County Tourism Director. The Tourism office has stepped in to help with coordination of communication, development of signage and some infrastructure needs such as arranging for shuttles and placement of portable toilets at the shuttle stops.
Due to budget cuts, the Park Service wasn’t going to be able to open access to the ice caves at all this year, but the Town of Bell, along with the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Bureau and the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, stepped in to provide the resources that the Park Service needed to allow public access. Due to the extremely large numbers of visitors this year, additional resources were needed both inside and outside of the Park’s boundaries to help with crowds and traffic control.
The inter-agency cooperation has been amazing and a group has been communicating and meeting regularly to assess and address needs as they change from week to week. The best place to find last minute updates is on Facebook and there are additional details including maps and links to FAQs on the Bayfield County website.