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Celebrate the great outdoors

Four generations of the Shiras family are pictured. From left, is George Shiras Sr., Justice George Shiras Jr., George Shiras III and George Shiras IV. The photo was taken about 1891. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

MARQUETTE — As summer comes into full swing in Marquette County, in what can only be described as a disrupted year, the Marquette Regional History Center is set to celebrate the local history of outdoor recreation pursuits in a special exhibit called “The Great Outdoors: The History of Recreation in Marquette County.”

When we talk about Marquette County history, we tend to focus on extractive industries such as mining and logging. Something else has perennially drawn people here as well. Our region has always been a destination for outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

Investors established the Marquette Iron Company in 1849, spurring the development of the settlement that would become Marquette. The same summer of 1849, a Pittsburgh attorney named George Shiras I (1805-1893) fished his way along the Lake Superior shore of the Upper Peninsula. This angler is often considered Marquette County’s first tourist. He came back each summer for the natural beauty and rich trout streams, establishing a family tradition. His grandson, George Shiras III (1859-1942), grew up loving the U.P. outdoors, pioneered the field of nocturnal wildlife photography, and made National Geographic famous with his photos.

This exhibit, funded in part with a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, will show the material development of outdoor gear with vintage equipment borrowed from local outdoor recreation experts. It will also tell stories from Marquette County outdoor recreation pioneers.

Dr. Jacqueline Medina, professor at Northern Michigan University, has been collecting oral histories from the people who helped create local outdoor recreation movements. Stories collected as part of this project will be woven together with artifacts to show how outdoor recreation, often thought of as merely entertainment, has in fact shaped our local heritage in meaningful ways.

Come learn more about the local history of outdoor recreation pursuits including bicycling, climbing, diving, skiing, and wildlife photography at MRHC. An opening reception for The Great Outdoors: The History of Recreation in Marquette County will take place at MRHC August 5, 2020 from 5 to 7 PM. We will also share elements of this important project online, at marquettehistory.org.

This summer, with normal life interrupted, we can still go outside. Celebrate outdoor recreation as a living tradition.

The allure of our harbor is part of what makes Marquette such a special place. It’s always been that way. Today we look out over Superior to enjoy nature, to appreciate the beauty of the lake. In contrast to pristine of the present scene, Marquette Harbor has historically been an active place, a port sending iron ore to a rapidly developing nation. It was Iron Bay.

Some evidence of that bustling past survives above the waterline, docks and pylons speak of a time when commercial shipping took place. Much more is beneath the water, known only to divers. Don Fassbender, for one, has been exploring the harbor underwater for decades.

Last year, Fassbender used his diving skills for something new. Much of what is underwater in the harbor is trash, including plastic, car parts, discarded tires used for bumpers on docks, and other potentially toxic objects. In the summer of 2019, Fassbender organized a clean-up event that attracted dozens of divers and surface support volunteers and removed four tons of trash from our harbor.

There’s more trash to remove. On Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Fassbender will lead a second clean up dive in the harbor. Contact Don at 906-361-3088 to volunteer as a diver or to help out on shore, or gather at the harbor to support this clever way to use outdoor recreation to improve the environment.

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