Visit Keweenaw pushes responsible recreation

Visit Keweenaw, among the few Upper Peninsula and Michigan destination organizations partnering with Leave No Trace, is ramping up its efforts with the release of a series of educational videos.

The videos showcase various ways to enjoy the natural areas of the peninsula, while also encouraging sustainable practices at the same time. The videos feature interviews with local organizations that work to make the Keweenaw Peninsula a better place for recreation and to enjoy nature. The videos will be shared on social media channels, including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

“The Keweenaw is an incredible place and we want to make sure it stays that way,” said Brad Barnett, executive director of Visit Keweenaw, the tourism authority for the U.P.’s northernmost peninsula. “We’re committed to sharing what makes the Keweenaw a unique destination, but also encouraging visitors to practice safe, responsible recreation and Leave No Trace principles.”

What’s happening: Visit Keweenaw is launching a series of educational videos aimed at helping promote responsible tourism. Five videos will be released and shared on social media. The videos follow Visit Keweenaw’s commitment to promoting Leave No Trace principles. They revolve around the topics of respecting wildlife, being considerate of others and planning activities around your skill level. The first video was released last weekend. 

That video features Jill Fisher, a botanist and program manager of the Keweenaw Land Trust, an organization that works with landowners and partner organizations to conserve natural resources in the western Upper Peninsula.  That organization has been instrumental in protecting the Boston Pond Nature Area, mitigating invasive species of plants and keeping up the park. Boston Pond Nature Area is located off of U.S. 41, west of the Houghton County Airport. 

What is 'Leave No Trace': Leave No Trace is a national nonprofit organization that brings a branded approach to educating tourists, campers and nature lovers to keep outdoor areas pristine. The set of seven principles helps people minimize their recreational impact on the environment while traveling or camping. Programs range from camping guidelines, best practices for dealing with wildlife and etiquette for dealing with different use of trail networks.  

A group of hikers trek into Isle Royale National Park.What prompted participation: Destinations across the country, including the Upper Peninsula, attracted an influx of visitors in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Some areas experienced a host of conservation issues, including trashed natural areas, water pollution, trail erosion, wildlife endangerment, and park overcrowding

Visit Keweenaw plays an important role in helping visitors plan their travels to the Keweenaw. “We wanted to provide engaging education materials to encourage them to embrace Leave No Trace principles so that the Keweenaw’s wilderness and communities are respected,” Barnett said. “As travelers discover new destinations, it's important they understand how to positively contribute to the local community.” 

Why it’s important: While Visit Keweenaw promotes the peninsula to tourists, it’s also dedicated to promoting sustainable practices to tourists to make sure they leave only footprints in their wake. Pristine waters, stunning mountain ranges and dense forests won’t stay perfect if they’re not protected. Visit Keweenaw hopes travelers come to the area prepared to have a great, one-of-a-kind experience but encourages them to hike, boat and recreate safely. 

Safety is especially important in an area as remote as the Keweenaw Peninsula, where cell service may be limited. It’s essential for adventure enthusiasts to be prepared and practice safe and responsible recreation. 

 “Our goal is to help visitors better understand best practices to keep them safe while protecting and preserving the Keweenaw’s wilderness,” Barnett has said.  “It’s important, particularly for those visiting the Keweenaw for the first time, to understand and practice concepts like Leave No Trace and how to prepare for visiting remote areas that often lack cell services and other public amenities. Being prepared makes for a more enjoyable visit and reduces unnecessary stress to public services.”

Leave No Trace:  Keweenaw became the third Michigan destination organization to adopt the LNT program, and the second in the U.P. after Marquette. Travel Marquette, the organization promoting tourism in Marquette County, last year launched Respect Marquette, a promotional campaign aimed at helping visitors and locals alike be respectful of local recreation areas.

Numerous destinations across the country are working with Leave No Trace. They include Colorado, North Carolina, Arizona, Door County, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Sonoma County, Calif.

What’s next: “It’s a little early for us to know what’s in store for the summer travel season. General economic concerns could act as headwinds to the visitor economy,” Barnett said. “Luckily, the Upper Peninsula is considered an affordable destination as many of our attractions are nature-based and budget-friendly.”
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