HOCP Summary of Recent Activity
Membership Update
Building vibrant and resilient communities that value and protect public lands in
Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario 
Heart of the Continent Partnership - Working towards making the border lakes area a thriving sustainable, prosperous place to visit, live, and work, here in the Heart of the Continent.

The Heart of the Continent region reaches from Duluth MN to Thunder Bay to International Falls/Fort Frances. The area includes Sleeping Giant, Kakabeka Falls, La Verendrye and Turtle River/White Otter and Quetico Provincial Parks in Ontario, Canada. In the USA it includes Grand Portage, Voyageurs National Parks, the Superior National Forest, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the beautiful Minnesota State Parks in NE Minnesota. The Heart of the Continent truly is an interconnected region that together shares one of the largest expanses of managed public greenspaces in North America and combined has one of the largest managed dark sky areas.

 As a Bi-National Partnership, during a time when it has been more than a challenge to connect we have come to rely on technology to work together on cross-border issues. Even though we haven’t been able to visit across the border, we have continued to keep lines of communication flowing. 

We continue to develop, celebrate and support the sustainable economic growth of communities and the natural health of lakes and forests. Because the Heart of the Continent is an interconnected ecosystem separated by park and forest boundary lines, county lines and an international border, a region wide vision is necessary to ensure its sustainability. These divisions have posed barriers in the past. Land managers as well as communities can reap benefits from a collaborative approach that markets the region as a whole.

In the last couple of years, we have witnessed an increase in outdoor activities in our public lands as well as an increase in gear sales for outdoor activities. Contrarily we have seen our Canadian resorts and outfitters struggling from the borders being closed and missing their American clientele. Managing visitation numbers has always been a strained tourism issue that has been accentuated during the pandemic. Heart of the Continent Partnership has been a critical avenue for cross-border and inter-agency discussions about these issues and sharing ideas for the future.

We have recently revived our science team and discussions of a Spring of 2023 Science Symposium is in the works, with Thunder bay, Ontario as a location.

It has been said that if the Great Lakes Region was a country it would have the 3rd largest economy in the world. Our individual needs throughout the Heart of the Continent region are hugely reliant on each other for collective successes. Together, through our shared initiatives and integrated conversation, we can make this region stronger and more sustainable.

Our steering committee consists of staff and volunteers from Voyageurs National Park, Voyageurs Conservancy, Superior National Forest, Ontario Parks, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and tourism /economic development organizations on both sides of the border. 

We have had and don't discourage a diverse leadership with sometimes opposing views, but with a common goal; to inclusively build vibrant and resilient communities that value and protect public lands in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario.  

Thank you so much if you or your organization has already contributed to our annual dues
Current Projects:
Heart of the Continent Dark Sky Initiative
Superior National Forest
In September the Superior National Forest was able to announce our first certification from the International Dark-Sky Association for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Not only the first area to receive dark sky status within the Heart of the Continent Region, but also the 1st certified Minnesotan site, the 1st federally designated wilderness site, and the 13th location in the world to gain this unique title of Dark Sky Sanctuary! At 1,098,000 acres in size, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has become the world's largest Dark Sky Sanctuary.

Voyageurs National Park
If that is not impressive enough, in early December the International Dark-Sky Association announced our second certification within the Heart of the Continent. Voyageurs National Park was certified as a Dark Sky Park "for its exceptional quality of dark skies”. Our successes have been from the collaboration and determination of people and organizations such as the Voyageur Conservancy, the U.S. National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, and Starry Skies Lake Superior IDA. Collaborating Forest Service and Ontario Parks teamwork in the field has also been beneficial to collect the required information and annual data. 

Quetico Provincial Park
In February 2021, Quetico became the third agency in The Heart of the Continent to obtain Dark Sky status from the International Dark-Sky Association.
Achieving the Dark Sky Park designation required a rigorous two-year process which required:
·    Light management planning to convert existing external lighting to dark sky compliant light fixtures.
·    Development of new educational programming and signage to help visitors learn about the importance of protecting our night skies. 
·    Annual sky quality measurements to ensure dark sky criteria were met - see Ontario Park's blog in link below

Revision of the TravelTheHeart Geotourism Website MapGuide.

Through the Travel the Heart Geotourism WebSite and MapGuide, we continue to showcase the historic, cultural and natural landmarks; events, attractions and activities; businesses; trails; artists, artisans and storytellers as well as local legends to capture the region’s unique character, heritage and beauty. 
Since 2011 HOCP has been collaborating with National Geographic Society (NGS) Maps Division. In 2014 HOCP became their newest geotourism site, creating an interactive web mapping site and was formally launched March 2015. With the recognition of NGS we are able to brand the region and help people think of the ecosystem as one entity, instead of separately managed pieces of land. Travel the Heart geotourism web site promotes and showcases our region to the world and develops an alliance and sense of identity with the people that live, work and play in the Border Lakes Region. 
In the spring of 2020 we launched a revised edition working with Elebase. io that has opened up more opportunities to showcase the businesses, clubs, agencies and local favourite places with easy linking to social media.

Science Symposiums

Resiliency in the Heart of the Continent will be our theme for a Spring 2023 3rd Science Symposium. Location for event will be in Thunder Bay Ontario!
In 2019 we revived our science team and hosted our second science symposium, this time in Duluth MN. Poster Night at the Duluth Folk School and presentations at the University.
Our goals for the Science Symposium were to:

1) Improve understanding of natural and cultural resources across the HOCP
2) Raise awareness of threats and management challenges to the preservation of those resources, and
3) Promote collaboration among scientists, managers, and other stakeholders across political, cultural, and administrative boundaries so that resources can be better managed in a landscape context.
Over 70 attended, largely from the science community. 

Photo taken from Duluth Folk School during evening of abstract presentations previous to Science Symposium at the University of Minnesota Duluth
Looking forward to adding to the list of tour dates 2021!
Bike the Heart

In 2019, HOCP volunteers from bike clubs and local communities executed a series of bike events throughout the Heart of the Continent region. Our project goal was to increase the public awareness of cycling opportunities, local trail systems, and their community partnerships    . 
Cycling is a budding and sustainable economic sector for the region with great promise to showcase local businesses, clubs and trails. Ultimately, many involved felt that their event was worth doing annually. We decided to postpone events for 2020 due to COVID, but hope to revive the series of rides when deemed safe to do so. In 2021 we were involved in and/or hosted some small rides in Minnesota to keep the excitement stirring
HOCP felt this was a worthy step towards cyclists  viewing the Heart of the Continent region as a destination. This region has always been known for its world class paddling and fishing. Heart of the Continent region could also benefit greatly by showcasing the many popular cycling opportunities. For 2022 we have 7 tours planned so far, with diverse terrain and rides for most abilities

Sister Sites Arrangement
In 2011 agencies along the border agreed that collaboration on shared common goals would the benefit of the public lands and gateway communities. A Sister Sites Arrangement was signed by representatives from Ontario Parks, United States Forest Service and the National Park Service. Shown here in 2011 are Tim Cochrane, Robin Reilly, Lynda Horman, Jim Sanders and Mike Ward. In 2017 the Sister Sites Arrangement was re-signed and included the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources NE Region.
We have a lot to offer the World
National Geographic worked with local organizations, businesses and residents to map the best of the
Heart of the Continent
to create this
WebSite - MapGuide

To help promote your business, you can create your very own marketing page on this website map-guide. For those of you that have created a landing page, or have had one made for your business on Travel The Heart, this is your chance to continue to improve that page, update your photos, videos or event dates with the new opportunities that are available. For those that would like to get more of their story out to the world, The Travel the Heart website is another tool to get your story out there. There are great places to visit and great products that can be found in the Heart of the Continent.
Please feel free to contact us if you want to become part of a bi-national collaboration to benefit public lands and surrounding communities.

So if you haven't already, please sign up to nominate places! You can nominate (create) a page for your own business or special places or activities. It is free and we all benefit from working towards vibrant communities and healthy public lands.

Please have a look at the new TravelTheHeart Geotourism Website/MapGuide
See the link below for "Field Experts" that have created a landing page on TravelTheHeart or for those that want to create a page. We encourage business owners that are running a unique operation to create a page on TravelTheHeart - it's free! Easy Step Guide
In closing
Your annual support makes a huge difference for helping HOCP continue its mission to sustain and celebrate this wonderful cross-border region through collaboration.
Heart of the Continent believes that, today more than ever, partnerships are important as we work together to promote each other for sustainable economic successes. Branding our area has mutual benefits. Together we can create and maintain strong relationships and partnerships that share in knowledge and prosperity. Our partnership with National Geographic MapGuide Division—the Geotourism Initiative—continues to help brand our area as a world class destination. www.traveltheheart.org
Public-private partnerships are vital for improving stakeholder relations, leveraging funds, marketing and maintaining long-term sustainability. Heart of the Continent Partnership is a public-private partnership that include stakeholders from government, private industry, tourism, local communities, non-profit clubs,    organizations and citizens.     We feel partnerships for sustainable economic growth and recreation are an essential tool to improve our gateway communities and celebrate our neighbouring public lands.
Our work has long term, deeply-rooted benefits for protecting the area we live in, and the livelihood of our communities.

Thank you for your participation and support of our work and the Heart of the Continent Partnership. Please give me a call if you have questions or concerns:
Tonia (Chair) -1-218-464-2941 or Chris (Coordinator) 1-807-598-1074.

Tonia Kittelson – Chair, Heart of the Continent Partnership
214 Main St W P.O. 218
Atikokan, ON P0T1C0
+1 807-598-1074