Skip to content

Superior Watershed Partnership gets $50K grant

Funding will be used to further sustainable tourism and expand local disaster response
Great Lakes Climate Corps members responding to the 2018 Father's Day flood in Houghton, Michigan

The Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) was recently awarded a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) grant totaling $50,000 to further sustainable tourism and expand local disaster response. Funding will be used to restore degraded natural areas and improve popular public access sites. Funding will also expand capacity for the SWP Great Lakes Climate Corps (GLCC) to provide natural disaster assistance within 24 hours in most situations. This unique project targets three Upper Peninsula counties (Marquette, Alger, Baraga) but is designed to be expanded to all 15 Upper Peninsula counties. The SWP program is open to local units of government, Upper Peninsula Tribes, community organizations and related small businesses.

Sustainable nature-based tourism is key to sustainable economic development in the Upper Peninsula. Protecting sensitive sites such as our most popular beaches, rivers and waterfalls often requires annual environmental restoration work especially after a busy tourist season.

“Making tourism truly sustainable requires more than just hanging a poster or sharing a QR code. It takes hard, physical, dirty work like controlling erosion, building better trails, picking up litter and debris, pulling invasive plants and planting native species. In short, it takes real work. The kind of work completed by the SWP, the Great Lakes Climate Corps and volunteers. It’s important to note that the volunteers who show up for SWP events are both local residents and tourists! Most tourists appreciate that it takes hard work to maintain these natural areas we all love to visit.” said Carl Lindquist, SWP Executive Director.

SWP volunteer programs have received the Governors Community Service Award. The SWP and the GLCC builds or maintains trails and boardwalks in all 15 counties of the Upper Peninsula, has removed over ten tons of litter and debris from Great Lakes beaches and plants tens of thousands of native trees and plant species to improve habitat conditions.

The MDARD grant also supports expanding GLCC emergency response capabilities. With over 40 seasonal GLCC members the SWP is uniquely positioned to respond to local emergencies. GLCC crews arrived within 24 hours to assist after the Father’s Day Flood in Houghton in 2018. The GLCC ended up staying for over a month assisting with home clean-ups, debris removal and staffing the community relief center. The GLCC also assisted during the covid pandemic and received the Governors Community Hero’s Award. MDARD funding will allow SWP to provide year-round disaster response in addition to the seasonal GLCC program. SWP staff are working with the Marquette County Emergency Management Office to design the program for Marquette, Alger and Baraga counties before expanding the program to other Upper Peninsula counties.

Brian Hummel the Emergency Management Coordinator for Marquette County said; “This funding will ensure the SWP staff and the GLCC are trained and equipped to support Emergency Management staff during emergency situations like natural disasters. Marquette County Emergency Management is excited to continue its collaboration with the SWP as they expand their disaster response capabilities in the central Upper Peninsula.”

Locally, there has also been a trend towards more unpredictability when it comes to extreme weather events and related climate change impacts. MDARD funding will help the SWP support sustainable nature tourism, sustainable economic development and sustainable local response to extreme weather events.

Emily Leach, Marquette County Senior Planner and the Chair of the Climate Adaptation Task Force (CATF) had this to say; “The Upper Peninsula has always been a sort of "hidden gem" that is now seeing more tourism impacts from an increase in recreation access. The burden of overuse ultimately becomes the responsibility of local municipalities and local landowners with maintenance being a hard item to budget for. That coupled with more frequent and more extreme weather events local governments need assistance to respond to such events at a moment’s notice. This GLCC program is a great asset to the fabric of what makes the Upper Peninsula someplace special.”

SWP project partners include the GLCC, Marquette County Emergency Management, MI Healthy Climate Corps, Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity (LEO), and the Partners for Watershed Restoration (PWR). For more information about this SWP project titled; “Upper Peninsula Cross-Sector Collaboration for Improved Nature Tourism, Rural Readiness and Disaster Response” please contact the SWP.

Contact [email protected] for more information.