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Superior Watershed Partnership assists in reopening of UP recreation areas

 GLCC crew members Andrea Sekloch, Alayna Merchlewitz and Sena Parker (left to right) clear debris from trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. (Superior Watershed Partnership Photo)
GLCC crew members Andrea Sekloch, Alayna Merchlewitz and Sena Parker (left to right) clear debris from trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. (Superior Watershed Partnership Photo) (WLUC)
Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 2:35 PM EDT
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Demonstrating true Yooper resiliency during the COVID-19 crisis the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) and their Great Lakes Conservation Corps (GLCC) have been helping local, tribal and federal partners reopen recreation areas across the Upper Peninsula.

For instance, GLCC crews spent three weeks camping and clearing trails, roads and access sites at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Many recreation areas across the Upper Peninsula are tasked with reopening this summer despite funding and personnel cuts as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. After a rough winter that brought many trees down in campgrounds, across hiking trails and access roads the GLCC have been active in preparing these beloved recreation areas for summer adventure.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has four campgrounds, 13 back-country campsites and over 100 miles of trail networks. The park was hit hard by winter storm damage causing many roads and trails to remain closed into early summer.

GLCC crews mobilized within days after receiving a call to assist Pictured Rocks staff to prepare for the summer season. Crews hiked many miles of trail to remove fallen trees, assisted in clearing roads, and rerouted a section of trail due to hazardous erosion conditions. With the GLCC's help, Little Beaver Lake, Twelvemile Beach and backcountry camping reopened nearly two weeks early for those who have been cooped up for the past couple of months. With some additional maintenance, Upper and Lower Hurricane River campgrounds are tentatively scheduled to reopen June 20, about a week earlier than anticipated. GLCC crews will continue working at Pictured Rocks until the park is fully open to the public.

"This was an impactful spring as our seasonal staff started later due to the COVID pandemic, and we had several significant ice storms over the winter that brought down many trees and branches. The Great Lakes Conservation Corps was an invaluable asset to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore staff" said Pictured Rocks Superintendent David Horne. "Due to their assistance, the park is able to open camping earlier than planned. These are friendly and hardworking crews and we very much appreciate their assistance in opening the park this year. It seems like outdoor experiences are especially critical this year and our earlier-than-expected reopening is a tribute to the GLCC crews' dedication."

The GLCC seasonal crews consist of young men and women with a passion for the environment and a strong work ethic. Many are college students or recent graduates. Crews receive extensive training including First Aid, field safety and now special COVID-19 precautions for working outdoors, indoors and traveling in vehicles. Each 4-person crew is equipped with a truck, tools, safety equipment and camping gear. The SWP has a long history of maintaining an equitable balance of qualified female and male crew members and crew leaders.

Perkins Park and campground in Marquette County is another example of a local recreation area that requested SWP assistance in preparing to reopen. The GLCC responded to the needs of the park by removing truckloads of branches from the campground, painting park facilities and completing a beach clean-up along Lake Independence. Although the park remains closed to the public until further notice, the GLCC maintenance efforts put the park in a position to reopen quickly when deemed safe by Marquette County. The GLCC also spruced up the trail to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain a popular county hiking spot.

"The help from SWP could not have come at a better time," said Mark Liles, manager of Perkins Park. "With the delayed start to the season it was a real possibility that maintenance would be delayed or incomplete. They showed up eager and hit the ground running, ready to tackle any projects we had. They certainly helped us get on track for a great year."

As restrictions were lifted in the City of Marquette people flocked to beaches leaving litter behind. The GLCC scoured miles of Marquette City beaches including Presque Isle Park, Clark Lambros Park, Pebble Beach, McCarty's Cove and South Beach. Clean-up items included bottles, cans, cigarette butts, takeout containers and some PPE masks and latex gloves. These items and many more were removed and properly discarded by the GLCC to prepare beaches for summer enjoyment. The GLCC was also proud to have assisted the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in preparing their popular community garden for the upcoming growing season.

Governor Whitmer continues to reopen public spaces and businesses, but many outdoor recreation areas remain closed or operate under restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some areas have scheduled reopening dates, but those dates are subject to change. Visitors are urged to check their respective outdoor recreation area's website for updates and activity restrictions.

"GLCC crews have been hard at work early this summer to support our local UP partners in preparing to reopen recreation areas for socially-distanced hiking, biking, camping and trips to the beach " said Tyler Penrod, SWP's GLCC Coordinator. "We're all excited to experience our new normal," said Tyler, "but in the meantime it's important that we respect city, county, state, federal and tribal COVID-19 regulations to continue the progress made in our UP communities. Now more than ever, time in nature allows us to settle our thoughts and reduce stress from the many challenges presented by COVID-19".

The Superior Watershed Partnership and Land Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) award winning Great Lakes nonprofit organization serving Upper Peninsula communities for over 20 years. SWP implements a variety of conservation and public education projects with an emphasis on Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron watersheds and communities.

For more information, please contact the Superior Watershed Partnership

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