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Winter continues to impact Lake Winnie businesses

DEER RIVER, MI-- This winter season has been brutal for all kinds of businesses on lake Winnibigoshish.

Too much snow and not enough ice on the lake near deer river has forced anglers and tourists to look elsewhere for winter vacations.
For one resort that's meant losing $300,000 dollars this season.

"Which left a lot of people not coming through or if they were coming through they were headed to Red Lake and Lake of the Woods. And so our numbers are way down from last year or previous years," says Lynne Powell co-owner of Fred's Bait and Tackle.

When we first visited Rick and Kim Leonhardt, owners of high banks resort back in January they were in jeopardy of having to close down two weeks early.

But thanks to a decent walleye season.

"It was kind of back to normal the way it should be," says owner Rick Leonhardt.

They'll be able to stay open until mid-March when they originally planned.

But the Leonhardt's know even that won't be enough to hang their hat on.

They had to look for other ways of making money.

Rick says "Who can plan for what hit us, there's no plan for it. Some of the things we're doing to offset for us is I've taken a job down in Tennesse for six weeks to go down and work."

It's a similar story for Fred's Bait and Tackle shop.

Owners say they're down almost 40 to 50 percent in sales.

"For the month of January, we're down 20% in sales, as of the middle of February we were another 20% down. 20 to 30% in sales," says Powell.

Business owners all around lake Winnie are still hoping the state can give a helping hand with a bill that the Leonhardt's say is being proposed by State Rep John Persell.

Kim Leonhardt says, "It's an amount of 10 million dollars for the five-county area. And businesses will be able to apply for up to $100,00 dollars and then there are criteria that need to be met."

But until that happens, business owners say they'll keep fighting to make ends meet.

Knowing they're not facing this hardship alone.

Rick says resort owners are resilient and they will get through it.

"This is about the area and this is about places that are going to really struggle. We're going to keep the fight going," he says

Powell adds, "It hurts everybody, everybody in the area is feeling it."

The High Banks owners say they leave for Nashville on Wednesday they'll be there until late March.

The bill did get tabled on Monday and the next step is to wait for a hearing to be scheduled.

Emma Quinn

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