Aging Paddlers? More Boundary Waters Trips, but Fewer Young Visitors

Boatloads of canoeists paddled into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness this past Labor Day weekend, something outfitters and Forest Service officials hope will contribute to a rebound in visits to the popular recreation area. But if recent trends continue, those paddlers will be quite a bit older than they used to be. New figures from the U.S. Forest Service show a recent uptick in visits to the BWCA. In 2015, the agency issued permits to more than 143,000 people, about 10,000 more than the previous year. Overall since 2010, there’s been a slow and steady decline in visitors, especially among younger people. “People are looking for a quick return on their vacation,” said John Schiefelbein, who has run North Country Canoe Outfitters outside Ely for the past 33 years. “‘I want to go out and do my adventure this afternoon and tonight I want to be able to post it, so all my friends know what I’m doing.’ And you can’t do that here.” The Forest Service’s last demographic study showed the average age of Boundary Waters’ visitors increased from 26 in 1969, to 36 in 1991, to 45 in 2007. That mirrors what Schiefelbein has seen. His average visitors are now in their 40s and 50s, he said. Those trends are concerning to Gus Smith, Kawishiwi District Ranger for the Superior National Forest in Ely. “We need to start investing in our future today — or five years ago — so that we have that group that takes their kids and their grandkids into the Boundary Waters,” he said. “So the next generation is grabbing that same enjoyment that they got when they were kids out on their parents’ trip.” The Forest Service is partnering with groups to reach younger people and others who traditionally haven’t visited the Boundary Waters.

Source/more: Minnesota Public Radio


David Wingate is an elder law attorney at the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, LLC. The elder law office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.

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