A third of the way into month four and “old man winter” is still tinkering around with his seasonal elements up this way. Although he is still holding spring at bay on some days, one can get the feel that he has slipped a bit in the past seven days.
Regardless of the current up and down weather happenings, the past several months have been an awesome display of what winter is supposed to be in Gunflint country.
We’ve surely had enough snow to satisfy about everyone’s need in terms of recreational opportunities, while those that need the fluffy white stuff to make their business ventures an economic success must be smiling ear to ear.
Another thought on the winter, and perhaps the most important of all, is the natural aspect for the entire territory. Whereas we’ve experienced some drastically dry times over the past few years, this fall saw the earth reasonably saturated at the end of growing season. Add on an enormous amount of snow, and there should be adequate soil moisture to sustain a wet growing medium to kick-start the green-up, and watershed run-off, to replenish county lakes for a good number of weeks into the summer. Of course, we’ll always need more.
Probably the number one reason many folks choose to live in this region either seasonally or year around, in addition to thousands who visit the Gunflint year after year, is the magic of our natural wilderness. Taking this a step farther, we celebrate backwoods adventure opportunities which have been sustained, for the most part, from the beginning of recorded history.
Sustaining this pristine part of the universe does not come easy. Mother Nature has her hands full preserving this time-honored primeval forest.
The state of our backcountry as it was even as late as a century ago continues to erode away. A burgeoning population seems to have an insatiable appetite for our wilderness experience. This is not necessarily bad, but the result of such often taxes this treasured landscape far beyond its capabilities. .
During April, and on through the summer, WTIP is taking the lead to renew thought, conversation and hopefully more action about sustainability of this great piece of “mother earth.”
I’d like to reflect on a few activities both past and present throughout the Gunflint in regard to our community efforts at sustaining what we all cherish. The sweat equity of most all who reside in the Gunflint Corridor reflects an energetic desire to see that what the “Creator” has provided, and “Mother Nature” maintains, is sustained into perpetuity.
Past struggles have not come easy and future endeavors to ensure sustainability will require concerted leadership and elbow grease. The natural quality of this border land as well as that of the entire planet hangs in the balance of on-going integrated environmental, economic and social considerations. All will be the key as we evolve into the decades ahead and far beyond.
Gunflint Trail residents, along with throngs of seasonal visitors, take unending pride in pristine lakes and a healthy forest. In my short time of living in the woods, I have observed enduring dedication on the part of Cook County Coalition of Lake Associations (CCCOLA) to educate our community about water use and quality preservation.
In that regard, due to CCCOLA’s toiling, we are seeing more and more lake property owners taking interest in and adopting lake management plans. These are action guidelines that involve scientific water testing and lend assistance to shoreline residents concerning proper land/water use recommendations.
Since the gigantic blow-down in 1999, and subsequent wildfires in 2005, 2006 and 2007, community efforts, in partnership with the USFS and DNR, to assist nature in regeneration of many devastated forest tracts have been extraordinary. Each of those disasters has prompted organized “firewise” clean-up and the planting of hundreds of thousands of baby trees. The signature event has been and continues to be known as “The Gunflint Green-up.”
Further, since the mid-1990’s, leadership of the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee has been at the forefront of looking after a sundry of activities. Their mission is working to guide Gunflint Trail residents, businesses, and managing agencies in sustaining, enhancing and preserving the byway territory as a valuable historic and natural resource. This effort is guided through a Gunflint Corridor Management Plan. The document works to offer leadership in ensuring all parties playing a role in life along the Trail have sustainability of our inherent natural riches as their top priority.
These are a sampling of activities employed by the community as a whole. Meanwhile many individual property stakeholders have sustaining plans of their own; from private land reforestation, to planting area-tolerant foliage, to control of invasive species, to water run-off control and on and on.
But our work is still not done. If we users of the Gunflint byway and its surrounding landscape are to honor the creation of this marvelous place, we have to partner with every neighbor and entity to ensure this northern “paradise found” does not become “paradise lost.”
Keep on hangin’ on, and join the journey toward sustainability.
(Photo courtesy of VisitCookCounty)