Big day for the big lake

COPPER HARBOR – Mark Fredrickson was spending the weekend at Fort Wilkins campground when a member of the Copper Harbor Fire Department told him about the activities of the Lake Superior Day in Copper Harbor, so the family decided to check it out Sunday.

Fredrickson, who was watching his 8-year-old son, Grant, pilot a remotely-operated underwater vehicle from a boat dock, said he hadn’t heard about Lake Superior Day before the firefighter came to the campground, but he’s glad he attended the events.

“This is great,” he said. “Anything to promote this incredible lake is fantastic.”

According to the Lake Superior Binational Forum website, Lake Superior day started in the early 1990s in Thunder Bay, Ontario by a group of people who wanted to recognize the importance of the lake to the surrounding area in Canada and the United States. Events are conducted in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario.

Don Kilpela, co-owner of the Isle Royale Queen ferry boat and organizer of the Lake Superior Day events located at the Copper Harbor boardwalk, said Copper Harbor is unique as a host community.

“It’s never been in the Upper Peninsula,” he said.

Kilpela said he heard about other Lake Superior Day activities then contacted event organizers who informed him how to go about putting together a local event.

Planning for the Copper Harbor events has taken quite awhile, Kilpela said.

“We’ve been doing it for a year,” he said.

Although there were fun activities at the event, such as canoe races, the ROV built by the Dollar Bay High School Enterprise Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics team, kayak-use demonstrations, live music and food, Kilpela said the main purpose was to let people know about the environmental challenges faced by Lake Superior and the Great Lakes Basin.

Speaking about those challenges was Marcel Dijkstra, Ph.D. candidate in environmental engineering at Michigan Technological University.

Dijkstra said he’s working on ecosystem models of environmental challenges to Lake Superior, including invasive species, such as Asian carp, and the effects of excess nutrients entering the lake.

“Lake Superior is common,” he said. “It’s owned by us all. It’s not a commodity.”

Addressing some of the approximately 200 people attending the event, Dijkstra said he’s encountered some people from out of the area who behaved in ways detrimental to the lake, and he thinks people who live here have an obligation to inform others who may be involved in such activity.

“It’s all our job to reach out to people who don’t have a beautiful lake in their back yard,” he said. “This is a really important part of our job as stewards.”

Local supporters of the Lake Superior Day event were Mariner North Resort, Pines Resort, the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, and the Copper Harbor Fire Department.

Kilpela said he was pleased with the turnout for the inaugural Copper Harbor Lake Superior Day event although it took place on Sunday.

“People traditionally do other things (on Sunday),” he said.

Kilpela expects there will be a second Lake Superior Day in 2014.