Future of Adventure Tourism in the Harbor

Future of Adventure Tourism in the Harbor

This season marked the 28th for Keweenaw Adventure Company – Sam’s 23rd year at the helm and my 9th. Over the years we’ve been fortunate to bear witness and engage in the evolution of adventure tourism in this remote, end-of-the-road region. While not commonly referred to as “adventure tourism” until the 21st Century, adventure tourism – basically travel involving a nature-based activity – has been a principal player in Copper Harbor for nearly a century.

… adventure tourism… has been a principal player in Copper Harbor for nearly a century.

Prior to the advent of motor cars and when tourist’s began exploring destinations such as Brockway Mountain (c. 1933), the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge (c. 1933) and Fort Wilkins State Park/Copper Harbor Lighthouse (c. 1923), it was primarily working people who made their livelihoods here in the Harbor (e.g. miners, loggers, fishermen, a shop keeper or two and a school teacher). In time, infrastructure and amenities were built to accommodate the growing number of tourists, and as a result second-home owners and non-business-owning community members were also attracted here. In the last few decades, the growth of outdoor recreational infrastructure – in particular trails-trails-trails – have fueled not just the economic growth of Harbor, but that of the greater Keweenaw Peninsula’s, too.

… trails-trails-trails — have fueled not just the economic growth of the Harbor, but that of the greater Keweenaw Peninsula’s, too.

The opportunity of recreating in the Keweenaw during my youth led me to pursue a degree and decade-long career in the Environmental Communication & Education field, as my connection to this land inspired me to inspire others. I constantly get to see firsthand the transformative affect this area grants both locals and visitors alike, and believe this rich region to be an awesome training ground of stewardship for lands and waters everywhere.

For such a tiny town, Copper Harbor hosts a relatively diverse and active community. There are year-round and seasonal residents – including families raising children to retirees living out their golden years to workers making a living (many of whom venture from near and far, even from abroad). Then there are first-time visitors, loyal return visitors, and many local visitors from Keweenaw and neighboring counties who identify the Harbor as more or less their backyard. All together, the Harbor is a vibrant ecosystem of inter-relationships that mutually benefit from one another. None of us would be way out here, basically in the middle of nowhere, without one another’s curiosities, talents, efforts and sacrifices. We work, live and play upon a communal landscape, where we explore and connect to nature – in fact, the biggest common denominator of both residents and tourists alike is a love-for-nature. And in an era in which Nature Deficit Disorder is now really a thing – as are nature Awe Walks and Grounding (also known as Earthing) – immersing oneself in the beauty and nature of the Harbor, is an amazing privilege that everyone from everywhere equally deserves.

None of us would be way out here, basically in the middle of nowhere, without one another’s curiosities, talents, efforts and sacrifices. We work, live and play upon a communal landscape… biggest common denominator of both residents and tourists alike is a love-for-nature. 

SIDENOTE: Please check out the KORC e-news letter’s “Call-for-Action” on House Bills… to ensure your safety!

That all said, as the general population grows and as travel trends predict, more and more visitors will inevitably be showing up to the Harbor each year. So whether bopping about town, riding the trails or navigating the waters, be mindful to graciously share this special place with each other and Show Your Harbor Love. For example, a mutual respect and kindness can be fostered between those who live here and/or work here and/or choose to spend their precious vacation time here – “Be Nice, Say Hi.” A respect and stewardship of the land can be fostered, to ensure sustainability and enjoyment for years to come. And a respect for safety and etiquette can be at the forefront of adventuring, abiding by Rules of the Trail, Road and other common-sense behaviors.

… whether bopping about town, riding the trails or navigating the waters, be mindful to graciously share this special place with each other and Show Your Harbor Love.

The United Nation’s World Tourism Organization reports that adventure tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global tourism industry and is notable for, “attracting high-value customers, supporting local economies, and encouraging sustainable practices.” A summer survey from Destination Analysts identified a quarter of Americans planning to, “focus more on outdoor experiences and also be more mindful of travel sustainability.” While a booking.com Travel Predictions Survey found that 58% of people agree it’s important that their trip is beneficial to the local community and 29% are going to do more research into how their tourism spending will affect or improve local communities. For those that live in or visit Copper Harbor, these stats displaying intentionally responsible travel ought to be comforting and encouraging to hear.

… stats displaying intentionally responsible travel ought to be comforting and encouraging to hear.

All in all the future of adventure tourism in Copper Harbor is bright and has the awesome potential to impact the community in a positive way. Thank you to the moon and back for visiting the Harbor and gracing us with your adventuresome spirit this season — may you come back to adventure again!

Tis the season,~Shelby, Sam & the whole KAC Crew

2 Comments
  • Peg Netznik
    Posted at 21:43h, 02 January Reply

    You all are doing such a wonderful job and it’s so great to see all the people in and around our wonderful spot in our Northwoods! The trails look great! Many thanks for all you do!

  • Shelby Laubhan
    Posted at 21:56h, 02 January Reply

    Thanks, Peg! Appreciate you taking time to read our post, and your positive sentiments, too! : )

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