ELY, MN — The Boundary Waters are a key identity of the Northland. The economic impact tourism brings for those surrounding communities can play a major role in how the region strives.
That’s why Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District Representative Pete Stauber was in Ely Saturday, talking to stakeholders and the general public about how the recent failure in the Boundary Waters’ reservation system is impacting their lives.
“We Have outfitters in Ely, Minnesota that that’s their livelihood,” Congressman Stauber said. “Phone calls to our offices were flooded both in Washington D.C. and around our district. It became the number one priority for my office.”
The system, which allows for tourists to reserve Boundary Water permits, went online and crashed on January 30th, and the ongoing struggle to get it back up and running has caused the community to grow worrisome about how local businesses will be affected.
“We had three restaurants that didn’t open up last spring,” Ely resident Gerald Tyler said. “God, I hope we don’t have anymore that don’t open up their doors this coming spring.”
On Saturday, community members were able to voice their opinions and tell two U.S. Forest Service representatives in attendance about the frustrations they have towards the system they operate on a day-to-day basis.
“Day after day, week after week, month after month, we see our economy not growing stagnant,” Tyler said. “The tourists aren’t going to come here if they don’t get a permit and they’re hassled with this procedure.”
U.S. Forest Service representatives say they plan for the system to be back up and running by February 27th.
“We’re really, sincerely apologetic of this issue,” Superior National Forest Supervisor Connie Cummins said. “We know that it has put extreme difficulty on the businesses in these communities surrounding the Boundary Waters, as well the public.”
Until then, representatives say they will test the system next week, and hold training’s the following week, to ensure that the system working properly before going back online.
“It is our intent to get this fixed, to listen to people, and get this back online as soon as possible, so we thank everybody for their patience in allowing us to do that,” Cummins said.
Representatives say if another government shutdown comes into effect before February 27th, they will find a way to continue to fund the system.