Atikokan has a unique opportunity to put itself on the map – the new National Geographic GeoTourism MapGuide.
The Heart of the Continent website and the basics of the MapGuide are in place, and the work now is to populate them with attractions.
“Participation by local residents is critical to the project’s success,” said Frank Jewell, chair of the project steering committee. “Our goal is to get nominations from across the region that identify the things people love best, those ‘must see’ places that might range from an incredibly beautiful hike to a historic downtown with exceptional galleries and restaurants.”
Local residents and visitors are invited to nominate for inclusion in the MapGuide the landmarks, attractions, activities, events and even local foods that define the region’s character and distinctive appeal. Nominations may be made through June 15, at www.TravelTheHeart.org.
“Anyone can register, and anyone can nominate a place or event,” said Gord Knowles of the AEDC. The process is fairly easy – “it’s quite intuitive to use, even to upload photos and video.”
He and John Anderson of Thunder Bay Tourism will review each of the nominations from the Canadian side of the Heart of the Continent, and pick the best to send on to National Geographic. It will have the final say on what goes up on the MapGuide.
“Here, we want to focus on a small town, rustic [theme]: resorts, outposts, and all things that are part of the outdoor lifestyle. Businesses, organizations, and events are all eligible, and we are working with contributors.”
Actually, there are over 300 categories for MapGuide feature points.
“But anything with a distinctive local flavour will score high marks,” said Knowles. “This will certainly give Atikokan tourism a much stronger web presence. And at no cost, other than your time… as much as you want to put into it.”
(Editor’s note: It took us five minutes to post a photo of Little Falls under moonlight, complete with its map location and a brief comment about the trails and picnic shelter there. More photos and video would be welcome!)
Heart of the Continent
Knowles and Anderson are the two Canadian members of the steering committee, which has so far raised over $200,000 to make the Heart of the Continent partnership with National Geographic a reality.
“That was mostly through the effort of Frank Jewell [Cook County, MN commissioner, and chair of the steering committee],” he said.
“Traditionally, we haven’t worked much with Minnesota, but we have so much in common – the same issues and advantages, similar geography – it makes good sense. They are much stronger as marketers, but they do treat us as equal partners in this project. And Atikokan starts with an A, so we’re right at the top of the list.”
The push over the next six weeks on the project is to get MapGuide feature points identified and detailed. The features that make the final cut will get on-site support material – like window decals with QR codes that will clue in visitors who (ever more often) rely on smart phones while they travel.
The next phase of the project will involve advertising, including billboards, to support the MapGuide.
“As we get content up there now, it will inspire others to get involved,” said Knowles.
The full Heart of the Continent committee (about 60 people) will hold one of its quarterly meetings here in August, based at QueticoPark and QueticoCollegeSchool.