By George Althoff
The City of Baraboo and Village of West Baraboo are official Ice Age Trail Communities. For those of you who are not outdoors enthusiasts, you may be wondering, “So is that a big deal?”
As a matter of fact, it is. Baraboo and West Baraboo are now the 18th community in Wisconsin with such a designation, which is awarded by the Ice Age Trail Alliance. The Trail Community program helps communities leverage the Ice Age National Scenic Trail as an economic and tourism engine.
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a 1,200-mile footpath contained entirely within Wisconsin. It traverses the state from St. Croix Falls in the west to Sturgeon Bay in the east, and reaches as far south as Janesville. The Ice Age Trail highlights the landscapes that were created by ancient glaciers, which happen to be some of the most scenic areas in the state.
Baraboo and West Baraboo are a natural fit for Ice Age Trail Community designation, given our central location on the Trail and renowned glacial features including Devils Lake State Park. Locally, the Ice Age Trail runs through the Village of West Baraboo, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville/Baraboo-Sauk County campus, and the City of Baraboo along the Baraboo River, then leads hikers to Devil’s Lake.
This designation is yet another tool we will be able to use to promote Baraboo as a tourism destination. Among the benefits of Community status are:
• Baraboo/West Baraboo will have its own landing page on the Ice Age Trail Alliance Communities website.
• We will be included in the Alliance’s comprehensive trail guide, a handbook that is printed only once every three years and is a “must-have” for any serious hikers.
• Our community will be featured by the Alliance in its promotional materials and social media channels.
• The Alliance will promote the Baraboo area as a destination to its audience, encouraging hikers to visit the community and businesses while in the area hiking.
Outdoors recreation is an incredibly strong piece of the Wisconsin tourism economy. According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, in 2021 outdoors recreation contributed $8.7 billion to the state’s GDP – a 14.1 percent increase over the previous year – and supported nearly 90,000 jobs. That GDP growth was more than three times the overall state GDP growth of 4.6 percent.
The effort to attain Community designation was spearheaded by the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Baraboo Inc., with outstanding assistance from the Village of West Baraboo and its Tourism Commission, the City of Baraboo and its Parks Department, UW-Platteville/Baraboo-Sauk County, the Baraboo Business Improvement District and the local Ice Age Trail Alliance-Baraboo Hills/Heritage Chapter.
To celebrate our Community status, the Chamber and DBI – along with the Ice Age Trail Alliance and our local partners – will be hosting an event on Saturday, May 20. Location, time and other details will be forthcoming.
If you would like to learn more about the Ice Age Trail Alliance, visit iceagetrail.org. Additional information about Ice Age Trail Communities can be found under the Explore tab.