The New Century
Writing about Star Lake in "The New Century"--the 21st century-- while we are still in the first quarter of that century is problematic. It is too soon to see the patterns that may mark significant change to the community as the century unfolds. Two trends are making themselves clear. First, the American Plan Resort is gone. In fact, most resorts are gone--many have been turned into condominiums, or sold to new owners who have used them as personal summer cabins--sometimes renting one or two cabins. That was the fate of Silver Musky Resort, and before that Murphy's Housekeeping Cottages on Star Lake. Froelich's Sayneer Lodge in Sayner and Ed Gabe's in St. Germain became condominiums.
At the same time we have seen an increase in the number of hotels, motels and lodges, generally clustered around the towns of Eagle River and Minocqua. And there has been an expansion of campgrounds on the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. These expanded facilities have allowed a substantial increase in the number of summer visitors.
And, of course, the popularity of the snowmobile and increased interest in cross-country skiing has increased the number of winter visitors substantially.
The second trend is the increase of people living in the area year-round. As the region has developed a more year-round economy, it now provides income for more permanent residents; several new families have settled in and around Star Lake with jobs nearby. However, a significant increase in year-round residents is older persons who choose the area for retirement. Eagle River and Vilas County have been noted is several publications as good places to retired to. [Fox; Schewe; and Savageau]
A number of summer homes on Ballard Lake have become retirement residences--although winters in Florida are not infrequent.
In addition these significant events in the life of Star Lake are worth noting as we review the current century. They are presented in chronological order, but we be added as time and effort permit:
2020 The year of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a national story and will not be retold here. However, the impact on the area is worth noting. At first, the number of cases in this area was very low, and there was a sense that people from outside of the area should stay away. By tourist season, however, there was a sense both of immunity and the need for the tourist economy. At first, there was insufficient emphasis on public health measures (social distancing, masking, avoiding inside groups). A major change occurred in July when Walmart, whose store in Minocqua had not been requiring masks, announced a national masking policy. Shortly after that, Gov. Tony Evers, declared a statewide masking policy. My observation is that people have been good at following these directives. However, some restaurants and bars have been open, and bars especially bring people into fairly close contact, and you can't drink with a mask on. The level of COVID-19 has risen during the summer, but has not reached serious proportions (September 2020). There were many COVID-19 stories in the local newspapers, and the bibliography of this site has not attempted to catalog them. None (thus far) has mentioned Star Lake. This article by Gary Ridderbusch in the Vilas County News-Review, is a good example and anchors this brief note in published media: "Vilas, Oneida Seeing Community Spread of COVID-19 Virus."
2020 A tornado, identified as such by the National Weather Service, hit the area on August 9, 2020. It touched down on Star Lake, hit the East Star Lake Campground, followed a path across Highway N and Highway K, blocking both roads, and dissipated over the Upper Bucktabon Spring State Natural Area. The campground was 70% occupied and there was heavy damage, but no injuries. The campground was closed for the rest of the season. The trees down on the highways were cleared within a few hours, but clean up continued the next day. Considerable damage was visible from the roads into the fall. These reports and pictures in the Vilas County News-Review: August 12, August 19, and September 2.
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