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Park Service considers new $5 fee to visit popular Apostle Island ice caves

News about the stunning ice caves went viral last year, attracting tons of visitors and costing the Park Service lots of time and money.

The Apostle Islands ice caves on Lake Superior were spectacular last year, drawing international attention and hordes of tourists.

But the 138,000 visitors to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore last winter cost the Park Services lots of time and money.

So the service is now considering a $5 fee for visitors over 12.

The ice cave formations don’t form in such breath-taking fashion every year, but park officials believe that the widespread news about last year’s caves will continue to attract many visitors.

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The Park Service has charged $3 for parking in a designated lot, but most visitors parked on the road or elsewhere, bypassing the fee, which last year raised only about $47,000, just a fraction of the costs of “directing traffic, policing the ice, providing portable toilets and cleaning up the debris left behind by the crowds,” says the Duluth News Tribune.

Chris Smith, acting superintendent, was quoted in the paper:

“We are committed to keeping the park affordable but we also want to provide visitors with the best possible experience while not over burdening our partners.”

The unexpected surge of visitors caught many local restaurants and shops off-guard, and they scrambled to handle the influx. The tourists brought in an estimated $10 million in revenue to the area.

The Park Service will hold two public open house meetings on the proposal:

  • Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland, Wisconsin.
  • Oct. 23 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Headquarters, 415 Washington Ave. in Bayfield, Wisconsin.