Gunflint Green Up Commemorates the Ham Lake Fire

The day of the Gunflint Green Up dawned bright and cold, with three inches of fresh snow blanketing the ground. Spring snow certainly isn’t unheard of in canoe country, but it could have put a damper on the May 3rd tree planting. According to event organizer Nancy Seaton of Hungry Jack Outfitters, the snow seemed to energize participants. Over 450 volunteers descended upon the Gunflint Trail to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the 2007 Ham Lake Fire that burned 75,000 acres of Superior National Forest and Ontario. They came from as far away as the Twin Cities and even Missouri to plant red and white pine seedlings and “green up” the Gunflint Trail.

The idea to actively regenerate the burned areas originally grew out of conversations among displaced residents and business owners while the Ham Lake Fire still burned. Initial efforts spearheaded by Seaton and others saw more than 200 volunteers plant over 6,000 seedlings that May. It didn’t take long for this success to sprout the idea of a second, larger event to mark the fire’s one-year anniversary. And according to Seaton, the Gunflint Green Up “had a life of its own” right from the start.

Remarkable cooperation between residents, volunteers, the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee, the Cook County Events and Visitors Bureau and the USDA Forest Service resulted in what can only be described as a true community partnership. Seedlings were donated by Iron Range Resources and the Quetico Superior Foundation, as well as purchased with sponsorship money. Well-received publicity drew year-round and seasonal residents, local business owners and recreational enthusiasts from out of town. As the day warmed the snow melted, and volunteers planted over 50,000 red and white pine trees on Forest Service land under the guidance of the local Forest Service crew, which provided tools and instruction.

With so many individuals and organizations investing in the future well-being of the forest, the future of the Gunflint Green Up as an annual event is promising. Even as heartfelt thank yous are still being extended to Green Up participants, plans will soon be underway for the 2009 annual Gunflint Green Up. Interested volunteers can expect event information to be posted on the
web site, http://www.gunflint-trail.com/ggu/, this fall.

This article appeared in Wilderness News Summer 2008

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