Ashland focuses on tourism opportunities

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published October 1, 1992  | October 1992 issue

Ashland, located along the Lake Superior shore in northwestern Wisconsin, plans to change the focus of its waterfront from industry to tourism.

Waterfront development began in the 1980s with a city-built marina, now expanded to over 70 slips, which is the anchor of the lake shore development, according to Russell Korpela, Ashland's mayor. Adjacent to the marina is a recreational vehicle park, and a major hotel is under construction. Plans call for walkways, bike paths, an amphitheater, and horse-drawn carriage rides and a skywalk over the highway so visitors can easily travel from the lakefront to the business district of downtown Ashland.

Ashland may benefit from two other proposed projects. One is a northern regional visitor's center, a cooperative effort between Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, which would be located just west of Ashland. The center is expected to draw an estimated 50,000 to 150,000 people yearly.

Another proposed project is the construction of a sawmill for the thousands of logs embedded on the floor of Lake Superior since the original logging days. The process of raising the logs and running them through a replica of an 1800s sawmill would be another tourist attraction. Also, the wood, preserved by the lake's cold water, may be used in special ways, such as for violin construction.

Ashland is responding to the challenge of a changing local economy. In the late 1800s and into the beginning of this century, the community relied heavily on manufacturing for employment, and the population level was four times the current 8,700.

Currently manufacturing accounts for 50 percent of the jobs in Ashland. When the state of Wisconsin provided incentives for James River Inc. to remain in Ashland, it meant continued employment for 200. James River, which produces recycled napkins and other tissue products, is one of two major manufacturing firms in Ashland. The other, C.G. Bretting Co., makes paper packaging machines and employs about 200.

Other than manufacturing, most jobs in Ashland are in service industries, such as the Memorial Medical Center, which employs 400 people.

Diane Wells