From the sparkling waters of Lake Superior to snow-peaked mountain caps, Darlene said that enjoying the beauty that surrounds her is simple: “You can just be very peaceful and walk or hike, or you can be very active and bike and ski, snowmobile or fish – all in one little area.” Today, as Township Supervisor, she’s pleased to see a bright future ahead for her community.
Despite Big Bay’s natural allure, the community always struggled to obtain the funding needed to preserve and promote accessibility to the lush natural landscape that surrounded them. But when the Lundin Foundation and Lundin Mining offered their support in 2019, “that all changed,” Darlene said. The Foundation and Lundin Mining’s Eagle Mine have been aiding Big Bay in leveraging a responsible tourism strategy for local economic and social benefits. With the creation of the Big Bay Stewardship Council, the project team engaged community members and recruited volunteers to support their mission of making Big Bay a more prosperous place to live and play.
In the past, Darlene said the town “had a hard time with businesses coming and failing and going.” But she said even with the challenges COVID-19 has presented, the Stewardship Council is providing long-term businesses with the support they need to make it through. Plus, new businesses are already opening up their doors. “We’ve seen a big change, we really have,” Darlene said.
Working in partnership with key community organizers Lucy Wilcox, Sven Gonstead, and the Foundation, Darlene and the enthusiastic team have moved mountains – or at least, they’ve aided local businesses, made trails viable, increased park accessibility, and overall transformed the Big Bay, Michigan area into a more accommodating, welcoming place for locals and visitors alike.
As Sven watches children use the new trails, he sees a long-term impact unfold that makes all their dedication worthwhile. “As a community, our focus is to work together and make the most of this collaborative opportunity [with the Foundation],” Sven said. “I am most proud of the awakening our community has seen. The idea that we can create a healthy future for ourselves if we are a community willing to put in the work.”
Lucy added that she’s pleased that the partnership has supported a “sense of balance between keeping our community safe and small for the residents, and yet being able to share [its] amazing physical beauty and wild flair” with the world.
According to Darlene, “everyone [in Big Bay] has a strong sense of place. They’re supportive of the family and pristine landscape and wildlife habitat. All the residents want to enjoy what we have, support local businesses, and make it so it’s economically feasible.” Now, she’s grateful to say, “it’s all happening.”
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