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Poor Lake Ice has "Disastrous" Economic Impacts

Brandon Weathers
Created: February 10, 2020 05:33 PM

In a typical winter, Lake Winnibigoshish is bustling with icehouses and pickup trucks. But local business owners will tell you, this winter is far from typical.

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Nodak Lodge owner Roger Croaker said, "Since 1953 [Nodak Lodge has] been in the family. It's going on the 4th generation with my son and his family which make a living here too with three kids, and we've never seen a winter that's put us out completely like this."

Heavy snow early in the season along with consistently above average temperatures has made the ice unsafe for vehicles.

Fred's Bait manager Lynne Powell said, "If they can't drive out and drop their ice castles wherever they want to park it, they really don't want to come."

Without anglers on the ice, local resorts and bait shops are struggling to get by.

"On weekends, we usually have three people working for the majority of the day. We are down to one person working. It is that slow," Powell said.

Before long, Deer River business owners realized they weren't the only ones facing economic troubles.

High Banks Resort owner Kim Leonhardt said, "I've talked to businesses from Lake Kabetogama to Park Rapids to Leech Lake to Upper Red Lake, so it's really a regional disaster."

Leonhardt has gathered testimony from nearly 100 business owners facing what they consider disaster level losses.

“Some businesses were not able to open their doors at all this winter, some are having to close their doors early due to the poor ice conditions. It’s an extreme economic impact to this entire area," Leonhardt said.

High Banks Resort is among these, closing three weeks earlier than usual. “So all of our March income that we would normally be expecting will be at 100% loss,” Leonhardt said.

Affected businesses are asking state legislators for disaster relief funding to help businesses stretching across Hubbard, Beltrami, Cass, Itasca, and St. Louis Counties recover heading into the summer season.

Leonhardt said, "We want to start off strong, and without this funding, we'll simply have to look for other options, but we're really hoping the legislators consider our testimonies and validate it."

A bill will be brought to legislators with hopes for a public hearing to be scheduled.

Credits

Brandon Weathers

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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