MINNEAPOLIS — There's a reason people like Bryan Hansel live in Cook County. It's beautiful.
"As far as the weather, it's about as perfect as you can get lately," Hansel said. "70s and 80s, blue skies, a little bit of rain."
Hansel is a local landscape photographer who also holds photography classes up near the North Shore. He's surrounded by beautiful scenery, almost always. However what he saw it he last few weeks doesn't quite fit in.
"A lot of new litter, people being rude," Hansel described. "So it's not everybody. It's just a few people but the litter is significant. You can go into remote campsites on a day trip and you can just see that there's trash."
The behavior upset Hansel so much he put up a plea on his Facebook page. He asked people to be compassionate and to love where he and other locals are living.
"Then I started hearing tales from everybody around the county about how bad it was this year and the thing that really got me is that someone dumped their RV septic tank in the ditch in front of one of my friend's houses," Hansel said.
That friend was Nina Simonowicz. Simonowicz is a writer and has a professional tourism blog called North Shore Visitor. She said her husband and her dog found the RV dump.
"How does that happen?" Simonowicz said. "What makes someone go, 'oh I know, I'll just pull over and empty sewage on the side of the road because...because why?' We're two and a half miles from Grand Marais where there's a rec park you can pay five dollars to do that."
As a writer, Simonowicz said she's encouraged folks for decades to come and visit the North. Now her message has shifted a little bit. Still visit the North, but with a side of grace, bringing willingness to pick up trash and not add to it.
"You kind of wish there was just human decency," Simonowicz added. "That [if] they don't have a garbage can, I should take it back to where I am staying or haul it all the way home."
Cook County's Visitor's Bureau, Visit Cook County, representative Kjersti Vick expressed similar views. Vick said the county loves its visitors.
"We encourage respectful, mindful visitors to come to our area," Vick said. "People who love the outdoors and just want to get away from it all. It's important there's a place close by for them to get to. I would say it's important to do some research this time before you come up. There are a lot of businesses that changed a lot of protocols and there are some that aren't open this summer, and that's okay. We're just doing what we can to help businesses get through this and help visitors and residents be safe."
The pandemic has affected operations everywhere so the folks in Cook County are asking campers to pack a little bit of patience this time around.
"You really need to have all your reservations and everything ready to go before you come up here," Hansel said. "Otherwise, you might end up sleeping in your ca in the parking lot, which is happening quite a bit here lately."
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