One word describes how I felt as I watched the helicopters soar over Lutsen Mountain – Thrilled! This investment from leadership at Lutsen Mountains only reinforces the energetic growth felt throughout Cook County. In July, I completed my second year working for Visit Cook County. When I started, I thought I knew a lot about this wonderful corner of northeastern Minnesota. I have now come to realize the depth of the partnerships we share in making life here enjoyable and energized. I am delighted.AN INCREDIBLE SUMMER!
As our summer season closes, I want to highlight a few spring, summer and fall highpoints. We are all aware that Cook County offers some of the biggest and best of the midwest: tallest peak, highest waterfall, most groomed cross country ski trails, largest ski resort in the Midwest, most BWCAW entry points – you get the picture. This list is endless, and keeps on growing. Another “best” came across my desk today – Hwy. 61 from Duluth to the Canadian border was included in Mashable’s “7 Scenic Fall Foliage Drives.” And perhaps the most reputable, the title of “Coolest Small Town in America,” awarded in February to Grand Marais. We would love to hear from other business owners regarding the summer experience of 2015. We know World’s Best Donuts sold more donuts than they have since opening in the summer of 1974! We look forward to hearing many more great sucess stories as we enter the last part of 2015.MEASURING SUCCESS
Safe to say – our efforts in marketing and media relations have paid off. I, along with the Visit Cook County team, serve our tourism related economy tirelessly. Thanks to our partnership with Giant Voices and LINPR we have built a successful marketing and PR strategy that is showing results. These partnerships allow us to build upon great outreach opportunities like sharing a booth with WTIP at the MN State Fair (a complete blast) followed by a live media appearance with KARE 11.
The one true measurement of tourism success for Visit Cook County is our lodging tax. This is always a moving target as we have lodging properties that pay monthly, quarterly and annually. We measure our monthly decreases and gains based on prior year figures which actually allow us to be pretty close on the measurement. And of course, we work extra hard to bring people here in our shoulder seasons of April and November. The County collects the lodging tax and prepares all the reporting. You can see all the figures if you look here: http://www.cookcountychamber.org/charts.php?id=15
That said, Visit Cook County’s fiscal year began May 1. If you calculate the success in the first three months of our fiscal year, the statistics are astounding. A quick snapshot of May-July shows growth in Lutsen/Tofte/Schroeder up 15.9% and Grand Marais is up 15.8%. And on an even bigger scale, lodging sales in 2014 totaled $33Million dollars. In a county that records $150million in sales, we need to tip our hats to the lodging property owners – not only as economic tourism drivers but also as employers.
We hope you have saved the date to celebrate with Visit Cook County and the Cook County Chamber on November 3rd at Lutsen Resort. You can look forward to more information about the event in the coming weeks, but until then, make sure you’ve saved the date!
The Trapper’s Daughter & The…..
The day we have all been waiting for is finally here!!!
It is my great pleasure today, on April 25th 2015, to present to you for the first time,
Wow, isn’t she a beauty??
After their long sail along the Lake Superior coast, the Trapper’s Daughter, Bear & Raccoon are finally able to relax on the shore near a big campfire. With beautiful bright embers floating toward the starlit sky, this print … read more
Day 5! Day 5! Day 5!
Today is the last day of our countdown before we reveal the NEW Trapper’s Daughter print for 2015!!
We kick off today’s countdown with a truly incredible print from 2013,
“The Trapper’s Daughter Crosses the Height of the Land as Winter Fades From the Woods & Waters.”
“The Trapper’s Daughter and the Spring Moose” came into the gallery like a hurricane. We could hardly keep this image on the walls and in the bins after … read more
Day 4 of Our Trapper’s Daughter Adventure!
Day 4 of our Trapper’s Daughter adventure beings with the winner of our 2014 Summer Solstice Trapper’s Daughter Bracket Competition….
In 2010, Rick Allen decided to try something new. With 26 different wood blocks, and 26 individual passes through the press, Rick and his famous helper Janelle, the Warrior Printress, worked their tails off on this one!!!
But wait…. there’s MORE!
The Kenspeckles decided to add a beautiful moon to the Long … read more
Day 3 of our Trapper’s Daughter Voyage!
We commence day 3 of our Trapper’s Daughter voyage with the eighth image in Rick Allen’s series….
Back in 2009, you could hear all of our jaws collectively drop, “KER PLUNK,” as we viewed “The Trapper’s Daughter Takes the Otter Slide” for the first time. What a beauty! Rick Allen really went to town with this gem.
One of my favorite parts about Rick’s prints is that so often they spark a wonderful, rich memory. … read more
“The Trapper’s Daughter & the Second Day”
We kick off day two of our Trapper’s Daughter countdown with Rick Allen’s 4th image in this enchanted series. Released in 2006, this beauty is a gallery staff favorite:
Our first glimpse of the Trapper’s Daughter out of the winter, we see her strong, axe wielding arms and bare feet. A vision of strength and courage, she crosses the lake atop two loons. When looking at the clouds, I can’t help … read more
The Trapper’s Daughter & the Unwritten Story
This year’s Gallery Hop Earth Day Celebration at Siiviis in Duluth will be unlike any other event before! Why, do you ask? Well my friends, because this year’s celebration is truly a dream come true. On April 25th, the ladies of Siiviis, along with the Kenspeckles of the Kenspeckle Letterpress present to you:
A THIRTEEN year retrospective featuring all 17 of the Trapper’s Daugher breathtaking appearances in print, including this year’s truly amazing addition to … read more
I’m down to my last couple days working here in Grand Marais and on the Gunflint Ranger District………it has been quite a ride here. For those of you who are wondering, I started in Grand Marais in August of 2001 and I’ll be leaving here in a couple days so that makes it pretty much eleven years on the nose that I’ve been here……and my time here has been pretty much spectacular.
The thing about that is, I can’t take a lot of credit, there have been so many people working with me that have really done the work. We have some outstanding employees here in our office and they keep charging forward to help us meet our budget commitments. And then they do more to help us within the community.
Much of our forest is about 100 years old and you’ve noticed the older trees are dying. The Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway committee, the biologists from the State and the Tribes, the County Biomass Committee, the timber industry and several local landowners have worked with us to find ways to restore our forests to a healthier state. One of the facts I learned last Friday is that on the Gunflint District during my time here, we have planted 2.1 million trees, a combination of white, red and jack pine, white spruce, cedar and tamarack will be the next forest we all enjoy.
Speaking of new forests, we have had around 800 volunteers planting and caring for trees during Gunflint Greenup. We have had our challenges, but this community doesn’t say quit. After Ham Lake Fire, there were plenty of reasons for despair, we all could have slumped back to drown our sorrows but another choice was made, a choice to clean up and create a new forest. The Scenic Byway Committee wrote and received a $250,000 grant for the purposes of forest restoration. With that we cleaned up some of the dead trees along the Gunflint, prepared some areas for planting, planted seedlings and seeded jack pine. As you drive up the Gunflint, you can start to see the next generation of forest and it will have a healthy component of pine trees.
Of course Ham Lake was only one of five major fires we had during my time here…..or should I say five major wildfires. If you look back at the blowdown of 1999, no small event, there have been a number of opportunities for us to get together and find reasons to succeed. For several years we got together and worked on prescribed fire, I think totaling about 40,000 acres worth. I’m sure that for many of you it may have seemed like we were coming in heavy handed to get these things done. However from my point of view we worked with a lot of businesses up the Trail and I got to work with a lot of great people. Without you, our work would have been a real challenge, but with you, we accomplished quite a bit.
Then the real fires started. Alpine Lake, Cavity Lake, Redeye Lake, Famine Lake………and then Ham Lake, the most destructive fire in our forest’s history. There were homes, businesses, garages and out building lost, 148 between the US and Canada, but “WE” survived……and through working together have grown stronger because of it. I mentioned Gunflint Greenup, but there is also the Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center, and our venture with Becoming a Boundary Waters Family. Three great partnerships working together for the good of our forest.
Then there was that peculiar change of events. Toward the end of 2007, we were “as dry as we have seen it up here”…..until September when the rain started. I remember someone telling me their lake went up 14 inches with one storm. Who would have thought that next we would have eight inches in two hours on June 6, 2008? I’m not sure how wide spread that rain was, but it sure was on the slopes above Grand Marais………..and water still flows downhill…….and that much water REALLY flows downhill……really fast….and will move heaven and earth………or at least a lot of earth.
But again, we found a way to work together and I could even find one bright spot in all that. Some of you know that I bike to work, at least on the nicer days. Well for much of the rest of the summer, I had a lane on the hill going down the Gunflint pretty much to myself…….or at least that part of the lane that didn’t wash away. Once it was fixed, I again was sharing the road and waving to friends as they passed me.
Friends……..I’d somehow like to acknowledge all the friends I’ve made up here and all I’ve worked with…….. or maybe I should say all of you who put up with me……….but I know if I tried, I’d forget someone and all of you are important. So I’ll generalize a bit and hope you all know how special you’ve made my time here. Before I arrived, I met and was working with Sheriff Dave Wirt and that only got better after I settled in. When he retired in early 2005 and Sheriff Mark Falk took over, we continued that great working relationship. I wondered a few times if Sheriff Dave knew what 2005 would bring with Alpine Lake fire and the beginning of our large fires? Talk about a new Sheriff being baptized by fire……..and the start of a great working relationship!!! Then there are the rest of the office, the deputies and dispatch people I got to know……it has been great!!
Within the Cook County Board of Commissioners there have been a few changes since I arrived. I believe Jan Hall is the only commissioner who has been on the board throughout my tenure here. I have gotten to work with nearly all the commissioners on one project or another and I truly appreciate all that we have done together.
Though maybe not as visible, I have had the pleasure of working with Grand Portage on several issues. Norman DesChampe has been the Chairman throughout my tenure and with his staff we have struck an outstanding working relationship. Norman is one of the great leaders within the Minnesota Chippewa Tribes and I can only think how lucky I’ve been to know and work with him.
I’ve mentioned the support and help we’ve gotten from businesses in the County and that has been nothing short of amazing. There is just no way we could achieve what we do without the support and help from all of you. As strange as it might seem, much of our wildlife habitat management and our fuels reduction goals are accomplished through the timber industry and logging. Most everyone knows Hedstroms and we are very lucky to have them in our back yard, but there are also so many others working in the woods to help us do what we think is right for our forests. As I think about it, the eagle and wolf populations have been successfully restored, and we’re working on the lynx. Our next challenge is likely moose and we’ll keep working with the tribes and DNR to do what we can for that species.
A special relationship we have is with the outfitters, guides and hospitality businesses who help us manage the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as well as our campgrounds. Special because we need those people to help us succeed, but sometimes the policies that come from our upper levels can …………well……..add a little stress. And I am humbled by how patient my business friends can be to find a way to keep going………I think it’s patience…….? But I do know how much I appreciate what they do for us.
Since the volunteer fire departments are………well………volunteer, I’m pretty much talking about many of the same people who work in businesses or other agencies. But the relationship is different when you’re working side by side. Now we meet, train and work together to help all of our friends in Cook County…….as it should be.
The other agencies are many, from the City of Grand Marais to the County, the State, Grand Portage and even Canada. I’ve said this in different meetings, but the way you have all come together during our natural disasters is a model for the nation. Several of the people who have come here to help with those disasters have commented on how they are used to having to bring communities together when they come to help. But in our community ………….well the leaders here pretty much had their acts together and the incoming teams were in awe of what they saw….doesn’t get much better than that!!
There have been a few other adventures that we have worked on together, a snowmobile trail connection with Grand Portage, some other trail reroutes, a county wide ATV plan (which after all the debate, we’ve finally implemented), some work in our campgrounds, a few miles of hiking trail work, biking trails, a few hundred acres of fuels reduction along with a variety of small projects, too many to name, where I’ve had the chance to work with so many citizens of Cook County where I owe you all so much and thank you so much for your help.
The one disappointment I have is that I have to this point been unable to bring a solution for access to South Fowl Lake. As I leave I know I have some co-workers back here who’ll help see that through the final steps. My disappointment extends to the fact that though this really is a fairly small project, I was unable to bring people together for a resolution. We are cleaning up a few details that will support my decision and the final proposal before it is submitted it to the Court.
So as I prepare my next adventure, I leave here grateful for all those who’ve chosen to work with me, grateful to be a part of a resilient community, grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. But mostly grateful for the friends that have welcomed my family and me to be a part of Cook County!
The loon parents are very proud and fairly loud about their new babies. They’ve been feeding and bragging in the bay over the last few days. The chicks are pretty big already and can dive on their own so this is not a fresh hatch.
The photo is not very sharp but you get the idea. We have a pro photographer with a super lens staying here right now so I imagine we’ll get some better shots quickly.
It’s windy and dry but fairly close to another perfect day in a long string of perfect days this summer.
Just had some folks arrive from the Twin Cities. They said they actually made it through Duluth without much difficulty, though on surface streets up the hill a ways. Hwy 35 is still a mess.
They said the rivers along the shore were spectacular. That was what slowed them down.
You can get here.