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Delegates begin lobbying in Madison

More than 100 people filed into a hearing room in the East Wing of the Capitol, to share issues that hit close to home with state agency representatives.

“It was 30 years ago at the beginning of Superior Days that the issue of Highway 53 was first brought forth,” said Scottie Sandstrom, executive director of the Bayfield County Economic Development Corp. “That finally came to fruition so now we look at the expansion of Highway 2 from Superior to Hurley. So we’re lobbying for that and we’re going to be persistent to do that.”

Sandstrom told Sarah Klavas, deputy secretary of tourism, that the impact of a four-lane highways east to west across the northern part of the state would enhance tourism, economic development and safety for those using the U.S. highway.

“When you think about tourism and we have the Apostle Islands — a national park gem … the expansion of the highway to a four lane would not only get them there quicker, they would spend more money, Sandstrom said. “It’s an economic development issue as well.”

He said the majority of businesses that require a four-lane highway nearby, and it inhibits growth when the region doesn’t have that to offer to potential manufacturers.

“A four lane on Highway 2 is the right thing to do,” said Dale Kupczyk, executive director of the Ashland Area Development Corporation. “…We’re not only the dairy state. We’re going to milk this issue for all it’s worth.”

For tourism, trails are also important to Wisconsin.

About half the visitors coming to northwest Wisconsin are using the trails, whether motorized or not, said Bayfield County Administrator Mark Abeles-Allison, addressing Klavas and Department of Natural Resources officials at the same time. However, the trails in northern Wisconsin are threatened as parcels are divided and owned by more people. He said while 350 miles of trails are fairly secure because they are owned by the county, state and federal government, the final 100 miles of Bayfield County’s trail system is owned by 400 people.

It’s an issue that has implications for forestry as well, according to DNR officials.

The delegation also had the opportunity to meet with several staff members from the Department of Administration to address several issues.

Wednesday, the delegation hears from Chief Justice Shirley Abramson and UW System President Ray Cross.

The delegations also fans out in teams to address priority issues with the Legislature in addition to meeting with the Public Service Commission, and departments covering economic development, workforce development, transportation and health services.