Somerset board approves ordinance prohibiting tubers from exiting Apple River at park

For decades, tubing along the Apple River has brought thousands of people to Somerset, Wisconsin every year. But, some townspeople worry a change will take a bite out of one of the economic engines of their community.

“I was kind of shocked. I thought they would listen to the people and do what's right,” said Mike Kappers with The Hideaway Campground and Tubing.

The village board proposed an ordinance that would prohibit intertube rental businesses from letting their customers get off the river at Village Park.

Leaders say the constant flow of floaters causes problems with littering, vandalism and rowdy behavior that make it difficult for families and other people to use the park.

“We warn that it may not be the intent of the village to end tubing, but the proposed closing of Village Park to tubers may become its end," said Cherie Link, a Somerset business owner.

Dozens of residents packed the village hall for a raucous meeting to sound off on the proposed ordinance.

Everyone who spoke opposed the change, saying it would hurt the businesses who depend on the tubers to spend money, which helps keep their town afloat.

“Your tubers are coming. They are supporting your restaurants, they are buying the gas, they are stopping at your bars. That’s a lot of money," said Andrea Jorgensen with the Somerset Chamber of Commerce.

“The accusations of promoting a lewd crowd and offensive behavior is an insult to me and my family and my legacy. It’s irresponsible. It’s just wrong," said Billy Raleigh, former owner of Rivers Edge Tubing and Camping.

In the end, the village board voted unanimously to pass the ordinance, which at least one tube rental owner says will be enough to sink his business. The ordinance goes into effect Oct. 1.

“We won't have place to take out our tubers at all…it will put us out of business,” Kappers said.

The change will affect two of the four tubing companies at the location.