Marquette Campaigns for RESPECT

A short drive from Marquette, Dead River Falls has long been a popular hiking and camping spot for locals, who come to marvel at a series of falls cascading through a rocky gorge and enjoy the wilderness almost blank.

Over the years, however, crowds of people have discovered the Dead River Falls, trampling the entire rugged landscape, causing erosion and other problems. This place is an environmental disaster. It’s terrible to see such a beautiful place so destroyed by too much foot traffic,” lamented one visitor. on a website (Keweenaw Region Waterfalls) after a visit in September.

The human impact at Dead River Falls has been so intense that this fall Marquette tourism officials removed the destination from a map of the waterfalls for tourists and are withdrawing from any type of promotion.

Travel Marquette, Marquette County’s tourism promotion organization, is taking new steps to protect the area’s natural resources. Together with other partners, Travel Marquette has launched Respect Marquette, a promotional campaign to help visitors and locals respect local recreation areas.

“We realized we needed to be proactive in working with visitors and locals to respect the area,” said Susan Estler, president and CEO of Travel Marquette. “There were only certain areas that received too much traffic. We want to remind visitors and locals alike to keep the region’s forests, lakes and natural spaces as special as when you found them.

With its rugged, forested landscape, Marquette is a popular mountain biking destination.
With an influx of travellers, Marquette, like other areas of UP and the Lower Peninsula, has battled a number of conservation issues including destroyed natural areas, water pollution, erosion of trails, wildlife endangerment and park overcrowding.

“Many rural areas have seen an increase in the number of visitors, people looking for outdoor recreation areas. Many areas received more visitors than usual. It impacts the local community and local infrastructure,” said Brad Barnett, Executive Director of Visit Keweenaw. “Marquette felt this influx and many others as well. We try to work with visitors and members of our community to make sure the experience is good for everyone.

Although Visit Keweenaw is not part of the coalition, tourism officials there, like others across the state, are monitoring the initiative’s progress. Many regions saw a peak in visitors in 2020 and 2021; the Keweenaw Peninsula was one of them.

“I think we all try to learn together. Travel Marquette has taken the lead with its community with a proactive messaging campaign,” said Barnett, adding that Visit Keweenaw also promotes sustainable tourism. “We hope it’s effective.”

More than two dozen organizations across the county, including state, community and economic development, trail organizations and conservation groups like the Upper Peninsula Land Conservancy, work with Travel Marquette as part of a sustainability coalition promoting Respect Marquette.

This coalition, made in partnership with national organization Leave No Trace, reflects Travel Marquette’s strategic plan: to build strong community partnerships that can work to address impacts and issues related to environmental, social and economic sustainability.

“All types of industries are affected by tourism. We kind of felt there was a bigger story to tell there,” Estler said, adding that the initiative grew out of a county master plan discussion, which included the hospitality industry. and the need to broaden the base. “We really felt it was something we needed to take a leadership position and work with everyone. We needed a holistic approach.

The coalition has adapted the seven principles created by the Leave No Trace Center of Outdoor Ethics to reflect what is happening in Marquette. Leave No Trace will help guide the Respect Marquette Coalition and provide other resources.

Principles adapted from Marquette include “Know Before You Go”, reminding outdoor enthusiasts to learn about the areas they plan to visit and to prepare appropriately, researching trail use, conditions, the terrain, your itinerary and the availability of the campsite. “A lot of our trails weren’t built to handle a high volume of visitors. Avoid the crowds and prevent damage to the trails by visiting during off-peak hours, such as early morning, late in the day, or on weekdays.

Another reminds hikers to “stick to trails and campsites.” “Walk and ride on designated trails to protect plants along trails and respect private property” Others relate to litter and human waste management, campfire etiquette, wildlife, trail sharing and pet management.

Leave No Trace works with destination management and marketing organizations like Travel Marquette to develop comprehensive stewardship education programs, said Faith Overall, community engagement manager for Leave No Trace. They typically include the development of location-specific ‘Leave No Trace’ messages – designed to address recreation-related impacts in an area. The message also aims to equip visitors and residents with the knowledge and skills to protect the natural world while enjoying their time outdoors.

Many destinations across the country are working with Leave No Trace to create programs similar to Respect Marquette. They include: Colorado, North Carolina, Arizona, Door County, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Sonoma County, California.

One of the partners in the Respect Marquette coalition is the Superior Watershed Partnership, which has worked to protect and preserve the environment of the Upper Peninsula for over 20 years.

The first Respect Marquette meeting highlighted statistics showing the number of people flocking to Upper Peninsula recreation areas, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where visitor numbers have more than doubled in recent years. The National Lakeshore has experienced some of the same issues as Dead River Falls and many other local outdoor recreation areas – people wandering off trails, litter, and inadequate infrastructure to handle growing crowds.

Paddle kayaks in the Marquette area.“It presented many challenges at Pictured Rocks that the National Park Service is working to address, but more locally here in Marquette, Dead River Falls is an unfortunate example,” said Tyler Penrod, program manager for the Great Lakes Climate. Body. “It’s a case of people loving a place to death. It’s hard to see many of our favorite local recreation areas change so drastically in such a short time due to the pressure of increased visitation.

Dead River Falls, which is owned by a logging company that allows public access, has no designated campsites, no designated fire rings – posing a fire hazard – and a small parking area , not big enough to accommodate too many vehicles, he said. A steep path that runs alongside the river and waterfalls is experiencing erosion, a safety hazard for hikers. Visitors straying from the trail or combing the hillsides for firewood create erosion problems.

Lack of infrastructure is an issue in other recreation areas which often lack parking areas, garbage cans, restrooms, and day-use amenities like fire pits and picnic tables. Each summer, members of the Great Lakes Climate Corps work on projects focused on sustainable tourism, including restoring coastlines, building and maintaining hundreds of miles of trails in UP, and creating new campsites.

Penrod believes the Respect Marquette campaign holds promise and can help create a more sustainable atmosphere for the growing tourism industry.

“I think it got off to a really good start, creating media buzz and educational material for the public,” he said. “I’m really excited to see where things are going and how we can implement projects to help create the infrastructure that promotes sustainable tourism. I believe the partnership will be able to take better advantage of these opportunities to promote sustainable tourism.

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