Heart of the Continent Partnership to launch geotourism partnership with National Geographic Society

The Heart of the Continent Partnership (HOCP) is close to signing a contract with the National Geographic Society (NGS) Maps Division to create a regional geotourism initiative for the border lakes region of Minnesota and Ontario. In doing so, HOCP will become a part of NGS’s global network of interlinked geotourism websites, gaining great visibility, visitorship, and awareness for our region—and its wonderful natural and cultural assets. A diverse Design Team, planning and implementing this effort, held its first meeting in late August in Duluth. Design team members currently include leaders of: Municipality of Neebing, Thunder Bay Tourism, Fort William Historical Park, Voyageurs National Park Association, St. Louis County, Sawbill Outfitters, International Dental Arts, Atikokan Economic Development Corporation, United States Forest Service, Club Mesabi, Voyageurs National Park, Polymet Mining, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

This economic development project will use a unified cross-border approach, the established collaborative structure of HOCP, and the brand power of NGS to increase visitation in the region. The HOCP bi-national region includes more than 5 million acres (2.2 million hectares) of public lands.

The initiative, expected to be 18 months in development, will result in both a paper map and interactive website. Drawing input and involvement from a wide spectrum of local stakeholders, this geotourism project will help sustain and enhance the geographical character of the region—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well- being of its residents—by highlighting the outstanding natural, cultural and historical resources and historic gateway communities in the HOCP  bi-national region.

One of this effort’s most powerful pieces is the collaborative effort that is developed to create and sustain the geotourism initiative. Both HOCP and NGS have strong histories of successfully engaging a broad group of citizens and stakeholders. The process of actively gathering content for the map and website will use public meetings as well as website submissions to engage all citizens who are interested.

To participate and support this project, contact project co-leads:

  • Mary Somnis, Outreach and Tourism, Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board & Steering Committee Member, HOCP.  218-735-3040, mary.somnis@state.mn.us
  • Doug Franchot, Board Member, Voyageurs National Park Association and Steering Committee Member, HOCP.  952-253-0080, doug@franchotassociates.com