By Shannon Boehm, Friends Intern
In March, I had the privilege to be a part of a monumental event for The Heart of the Continent Partnership: The launch of their geotourism website for National Geographic. This initiative was started by Jim Dion of National Geographic. With this project, National Geographic partners with a host of regions to create a framework for engaging communities and creating a regional geotourism infrastructure for locations throughout the world. The project creates an interactive website for the region that will assist people all over the world in planning trips that sustain or enhance the geographical character of a place. With other regions throughout the country providing great success stories, The Heart of the Continent Partnership has been working with National Geographic to become one of them, and this past week’s media launch marked the beginning.
The media launch for this initiative was a two-day, three-city journey to spread awareness and gain support, with all events being held at locations showcased on the new website. On Thursday morning we started in Duluth at the historical Glensheen Mansion. We heard from several supporters and contributors to the initiative including Frank Jewell, County Commissioner for St Louis County and HOCP Chairman, Don Ness, the mayor of Duluth. We then ventured along the north shore to Grand Portage National Monument, where we were welcomed with a drum circle performance by local tribal members, and graced with the words of one of the their tribal leaders, along with other speakers promoting the new website. Our last stop was in Thunder Bay, Ontario on Friday morning at Fort Williams Historical Park. We heard from more supporters of the geotourism initiative including representatives from the offices of the mayors from both Thunder Bay and Atikokan.
This was a really great way to see the ways that people from not only different backgrounds, but also different countries can work together to support such a great initiative. They all recognized the unique attributes and natural wonders our region has to offer as well as the benefit that this National Geographic initiative could have for all of the local communities involved. I was very honored to be a part of such great discussions regarding tourism and the environment, and I look forward to watching this partnership and the geotourism initiative progress.