Love the Keweenaw campaign kicks off

The wild beauty and isolation of the Keweenaw Peninsula have spawned a tourist trade that could damage the very outdoor recreation attractions people love.

So, it’s no surprise that there’s a growing interest in recognizing the need to enhance safe and responsible gentle recreation practices for residents and visitors alike. 

The new Love The Keweenaw campaign is designed to equip residents, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and visitors with strategies and resources to make respectful, sustainable, low-impact use of the Keweenaw’s outdoor recreation spaces and features. 

What’s happening: The Copper Harbor Trails Club, Eagle Harbor Township, Michigan State University Extension, WUPPDR, and Visit Keweenaw recently launched the Love the Keweenaw information campaign to teach recreational users ways to protect the Keweenaw’s natural landscape. Those campaign principles include:
Leave no trace: The Leave No Trace protocol, a long-established ethic for outdoor enthusiasts, encourages keeping wilderness, lakes, and landscapes pristine. Strategies include planning and preparing, traveling and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly, leaving what they find behind, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of others. 

Brad Barnett, Visit Keweenaw’s executive director, says those principles have some unique demands in the Upper Peninsula. “It's important for all of us to plan ahead as some (Keweenaw areas) may lack the amenities more commonly found downstate” he says. 

For instance, trailheads, which are often maintained by local volunteer groups, may not have waste receptacles on site. “Always be prepared to pack out your trash,” he advises. Also, it may also not be obvious where public lands end and private areas begin.

“Some early planning goes a long way to avoid trespassing,” he says. " is a great place to find information about the area and where public access is granted for recreators. Local visitor centers are also a great place to start as their staff are knowledgeable about the region and what to expect.”

Responsible recreation: A second principle calls for developing habits of safe and prepared engagement with the Keweenaw’s outdoor and recreation spaces. 
“Lake Superior offers a lot of opportunities for recreators, but its size and remoteness make it different than the other Great Lakes," Barnett says. “For a safe and enjoyable experience make sure you check the weather ahead of time before setting out. It can change rapidly. 

“Know that Superior’s waters will be cooler than those found in other Great Lakes. So, wearing a wetsuit if you plan on paddling should be considered. And of course, always wear a life jacket.”

Also, Barnett says, because Lake Superior is so vast, visitors can go for miles without encountering other people. “Our beaches won’t have lifeguards on shore,” he says, "so know your limits and take responsibility for your personal safety.”

Finally, if you do plan to paddle on Lake Superior, know that you should be using sea kayaks designed for open water paddling. These perform much better when navigating through wave churn compared to other watercraft designed for calmer waters. 
Respecting private property: The campaign encourages users to stay on public lands and educates them on the rules, regulations, and public access points of the Keweenaw. “Staying on public land builds trust between residents and visitors, allowing the public spaces to stay open and accessible for future users,” Barnett says. 

Rock collecting is a popular hobby on the Keweenaw Peninsula. On state land, collectors are allowed to harvest up to 25 pounds of rocks per year. “However, it's important to understand that some areas have ordinances prohibiting rock collecting,” Barnett says. “Pay attention to posted signs at parks to help understand where rock collecting is prohibited.”

The campaign:  The Love the Keweenaw campaign will be distributing educational materials throughout the region and via social media messaging and will reach out to area businesses and attractions. “We’ll be sharing the Love the Keweenaw campaign across social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, along with print signage throughout the region,” Barnett says. “Our goal will be to meet users “where they’re at” so that requires a multi-media approach.”

What people are saying: “We’re proud to help lead this effort.”  Barnett says. “It is important that anyone who experiences our wilderness and communities do so respectfully and responsibly so that future generations can do the same.” 
Says William Cronin, who is the tourism and community development educator for the Baraga County office of Michigan State University Extension: “MSU Extension community development programming emphasizes collaboration to improve lives and communities. Love the Keweenaw is just that sort of grassroots initiative and will educate users to enjoy our region’s recreation assets responsibly and sustainably. MSU Extension is proud to be a part of it.” 

Bryce Holden, who is an Eagle Harbor Township trustee, says with the increase in use and pressure on recreational areas by visitors and residents alike, Eagle Harbor Township deems it necessary to be proactive in protecting and preserving the lands and way of life. “Several years in the making, this idea that stemmed from community feedback has been thoughtfully developed into an initiative we are proud to be a partner in,” he says. “We’re excited to see things coming to fruition, and the positive impacts Love the Keweenaw will have on our region and communities.” 

To learn more or explore Love the Keweenaw's resources, visit

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years. She is a regular contributor to Rural Innovation Exchange and other Issue Media Group publications. 
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