By Diane Meyer, EUP Conservation Design Task Force
Residents of the Eastern Upper Peninsula are very concerned about changes that have taken place in recent years about what they perceive to be increased development of seasonal homes, hotels/motels, and mall/shopping centers, and about population size and amount of traffic. After five task force members participated in a four-session workshop on conservation design conducted by Rod Cortright of the MSU Extension Office, the Eastern Upper Peninsula Task Force was formed in February 2000.
Conservation planning and design is a method of developing property while respecting natural resources, which can be applied to one piece of property, or to an entire township or municipality. Our mission is to provide educational materials and presentations on land use and conservation design zoning options to city, county, and township officials, businesses, and the public. Our volunteer task force members see the need to minimize or prevent impacts of development on aquatic habitat, farmland, woodland, birds, and wildlife, and want the character of the EUP to be preserved as development takes place. As a result of our efforts, we have seen an increased awareness by the officials and the community regarding conservation options and patterns of development. Additionally, a local municipality is taking steps to encourage conservation design. Conservation planning and design is a method of developing property while respecting natural resources.
What do you consider the key to your success?
Public outreach, including one-on-one conversations, informal gatherings for group discussion, as well as contacts at public events (such as the county fair) to listen to people’s concerns and to build support. Our educational materials were very visual and our displays included hands-on models that added dimensions beyond words.
How would you outline the steps you took to organize your project in order to advise another group working on a similar project?
Weekly meetings helped keep us on track and organized. Having an agenda is key to a successful meeting.
What have the effects of this effort been on your organization’s work?
This effort gave our campaign a kick start. Along the way new task force members joined the effort because they liked our goals and our approach to the problem.
How has the project affected your community?
Increased public awareness. One city is currently working on rewriting its master plan and zoning ordinance to allow and encourage conservation design. This city could influence a county-wide zoning ordinance.
What particular stumbling blocks, challenges, or defeats did you encounter?
(a) time restraints since volunteers have full-time jobs
(b) a full-time coordinator is needed,
(c) conflicting schedules of volunteers limited the amount of outreach, and
(d) a number of task force members moved or resigned over the course of our existence.
How many people were involved?
(a) Initially: 5
(b) Finally: 9
(c) Total # serving as members since beginning: 15 (3 of the 5 original members remain on the task force, adding continuity).
(d) Others helped with articles and displays. Hundreds of volunteer hours have been poured into this project.
How was public involvement motivated and facilitated?
The survey allowed public input. The displays and educational models attracted the public at the Spring Show and at the County Fair. Contacts often led to presentations to other groups.
How was public education a component of your program?
We prepared a number of brochures and informational papers. We used an interactive model that shows the impacts of development on wetlands and groundwater. We used graphics showing increased development in specific areas in the Eastern U.P.
What was the primary means of communication?
One-on-one conversations and small group discussions.
What resources were available/acquired/tapped into?
– A Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund Grant of $3,000
– A Chippewa/East Mackinac Conservation District match of $1,500
– A Lake Superior Alliance Grant of $900
– Volunteer hours
– MSU Extension staff presentations
– Lake Superior State University staff time
What level and types of media exposure were you able to obtain and how did it affect/assist your efforts?
Articles announcing the project and activities, and a series of newspaper articles explaining conservation design.
Other comments that you feel would be helpful to other grassroots organizations working on similar projects.
Have a good structure in place and a clearly-defined project with desired outcomes. Put emphasis on personal contacts and alliances with a broad base of community members and groups, educational facilities, and public agencies. Plan on being active over the long term.
EUP Conservation Design Task Force
3617 Bermuda Avenue
Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
906-635-1003 (ext. 106)