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Our town: Copper Harbor

Supporting the terrain

October 2, 2010
By Michael H. Babcock, DMG Writer

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a multi-part series on the various downtowns in the Copper Country.

COPPER HARBOR - When a town is located just minutes from beautiful lakes, high-rising mountains, surrounded by forests as long as the eyes can see and has one of the Great Lakes lapping on its beaches, it's easy to see what its strengths are.

"We always say that the terrain is our business," said Peg Kauppi, who sits on the Keweenaw County Economic Development Committee. "There are very few people that come here that aren't interested in the scenery, or the trails and the rest of us are here to survive by supporting the terrain."

That's the mantra for the business district in Copper Harbor, a bustling community that is the Copper Country's most popular tourist destination.

"Tourism is the primary industry in Copper Harbor, there's some very small industries, but we are into tourism," Kauppi said. "We put a lot of our marketing into that and our thought process revolves around it; it's how we think here."

Aside from marketing, the entire town is built around it.

"All of the needs of our visitors can easily be accommodated in a relatively short area," said Stacy Gibson, the president of the Copper Harbor Improvement Association. "The gifts shops are all distinct from each other, it's not the same shop over and over like it is in many other tourist areas; there's a lot of diversity, and the same is true of our restaurants, from family dining to five-start dining right on the waterfront."

Gibson said the town is continuing to progress, especially with its outdoor activities offerings.

"The trail system has done extensive work in the woods up here and recently received Epic status," she said. "That designation is enjoyed by only 40 systems in the world."

A maritime museum was also opened recently.

One of the relatively new focuses of Copper Harbor is winter.

"The winter is getting more and more exciting," said Kauppi. "We've been here for 33 years. We've always thought the winter has the most potential, and I think it's starting to happen. We've always been known for our snowmobile trails, but now with Mount Bohemia as well, which attracts people just because of what it is. It's not like any other hill in the Midwest."

The results have led to more businesses being able to stay open all winter in Copper Harbor.

"We like to think we're a year-round service community."

To bring it all together takes many hours put in by not a lot of people, which Kauppi thinks is a strength of the area.

"It's a community of driven people; there's not really a lot of choices about participating or not participating," she said. "it's hard to live here and escape being on some committee, action or board. There's a lot of people that where many hats. It's something where you have to participate to move forward."

Aside from serving on the KCEDC, Kauppi and her husband Don own the Mariner North, and she's the president of the school board, which services a one-room schoolhouse with 15 elementary school-age students this year.

Kauppi said the community is especially buzzed after a great tourist season in 2010, crediting the state of Michigan for the jump in tourism.

"The Pure Michigan Campaign, with the state of Michigan behind it, helped us a lot," she said of the program which might be dropped from the next budget. "They proved that for every $1, we brought $3 in."

Michael H. Babcock can be reached at



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