With Quetico Park superintendent Trevor Gibb signing for Ontario Parks, the Sister Sites Arrangement with the U.S. Forest Service and the American National Park Service was renewed for a third five-year term.
“This formalizes the connection between Quetico Park and Superior National Forest, a connection that goes back over a hundred years,” said Gibb. “This enables us to co-operate on joint projects, staff training, research programs, and management issues.”
The signing occurred at the Heart of the Continent Partnership’s semi-annual round table, which attracted sixty land managers and recreation and tourism officials to Duluth last month.
The Heart of the Continent is home to the largest managed green space in North America; Quetico Park and the Superior National Forest are the best known spaces, but the region also encompasses the Kakabeka cluster of provincial parks, and on the American North Shore, Split Rock and Gooseberry State Parks. The latter two draw a million visitors a year.
Gibb, as well as Quetico Park Warden (and HoC Partnership coordinator) Chris Stromberg participated in the land managers’ meeting, as well as the recreation and tourism summit, a couple of key components of the round table.
The land managers shared research data (cross-border and independent research initiatives), insights on the International Joint Commission (which governs the watershed the Heart of the Continent shares), joint management issues, and field projects along the border and across Quetico and Superior boundaries.
The recreation and tourism summit included a brainstorming session in which the land managers explored what makes the Heart of the Continent unique, how recreation and tourism contributes to the quality of life, and how best to communicate both points to prospective visitors.
Stromberg and Eric Johnson (Voyageurs National Park) demonstrated how to create a page with the easy guide to nominating a favourite place or business on the HoCP’s National Geographic geo-tourism website.
The session extended over dinner, where the delegates got an overview of an economic impact study conducted last year by the Friends of the Boundary Waters (the Conservation Economics Institute and the Quetico Superior Foundation partnered in the study). It showed that out-of-region visitors spent $57 million in three surrounding (American) counties, creating nearly a thousand jobs and an overall economic output of $77 million in one summer.
The delegates also heard from a couple of passionate sport climbing advocates: Dave Pagel, one of the prime movers behind the West Duluth Climbing Park (the old quarry, and one-time casket storage area, was transformed into a climbing centre), and Aric Fishman, founder of Outdoor Skills and Thrills. He literally wrote the book on climbing in the region (Thunder Bay Climbing – A Guide to NWO’s Best Kept Secret).
Finally, participants heard from the foundation that coordinates volunteers in Montana’s million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the executive director of Minnesota’s Northwoods Volunteer Connection. They offered ideas, including success stories, for the challenges public organizations face when they employ volunteers.
In addition to Gibb, Stromberg, and Fishman, Canadians at the meeting included Gord Knowles (an HoCP board member and Atikokan community development officer), Pam Cain (director of the Path of the Paddle), Clara Butikofer and Gary Davies of Neebing Economic Development, Taylor Green (Animikii Tours, Thunder Bay), and James Bennitt of Ontario Parks.