Blue kiosks leading visitors on a tour through Northern Door County are appearing along Highways 42 and 57, each one telling the story of the area’s unique past and directing travelers to nearby attractions.
The kiosks are along the Door County Coastal Byway, an official Wisconsin Scenic Byway. They’re meant to attract visitors to the county and help direct those already here to places they wouldn’t normally find.
While those visitors travel around the county they’re learning about area settlers, rare species of plants and how industries like agriculture and logging shaped Door County culture. Members of the Coastal Byway council hope that learning about the county will bring byway travelers back for another visit.
“There are people who are byway travelers, and once you’ve traveled a byway you become more familiar with that area and develop a personal connection to it, so chances are you’re going to return,” said council member Ann Miller. “That’s what we need here – return guests, all year round.”
Ten kiosks are going up in a 66-mile loop around northern Door County (download a map of the byway here>>). They’ll be located in Sturgeon Bay, Sevastopol, Jacksonport, Baileys Harbor, Liberty Grove, Sister Bay, Fish Creek and Egg Harbor. Municipalities paid about $2,000 to put up each kiosk, including in-kind donation of the cost to install them. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and federal Department of Administration grants awarded $138,000 and Wisconsin Public Service awarded $15,000 to the program. Sturgeon Bay Utilities allowed the committee to buy some material at cost, too.
Sam Perlman, economic development manager for the Door County Economic Development Corporation, hopes the byway will attract tourists and boost the economies near the kiosks.
“We want people to spend more time here on the byway and explore all the communities along the byway, and we certainly expect that will translate into at least some incremental economic impact,” he said.
All the kiosks are scheduled to be up by Oct. 31, but that depends on town maintenance crews’ schedules. As of press time, kiosks were finished at the Door County Visitor Bureau in Sturgeon Bay, Grandma Tommy’s Country Store in Sevastopol and Harbor View Park in Egg Harbor.
Steve Laubenstein, owner of Grandma Tommy’s Country Store, said the kiosk on his property looks good and sometimes draws a crowd. He said the Town of Sevastopol did a nice job building a kiosk that matched the store, but it’s too early to tell if it’s impacted his business.
“It’s kind of a wait and see game to see how much they’re used, how much people stop and visit them and read about the history of each township,” Laubenstein said. “Time will tell, but I think they’re another good step to promoting our county. People like history, and the kiosk tells about the history of the Town of Sevastopol and I think that’s helpful for the town and helpful for the businesses in the town, so I think it’s a win-win situation all the way around.”
The kiosk outside Grandma Tommy’s has a section about the country store, originally called Tommy’s Road Side Market, and the region’s history as a cherry orchard.
Miller said establishing the route as an official Wisconsin Scenic Byway could help attract grant money to projects near the byway. The goal is to eventually establish the Door County Coastal Byway as a National Scenic Byway.