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The Door County Land Trust hosted a guided trail hike through the Heins Creek Nature Preserve, 7112 Wisconsin 57, south of Baileys Harbor, on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. Heins Creek, a Class 2 trout stream, meanders through a northern forest and sand dunes on the 74-acre property. Tina M. Gohr/Your Key to the Door Weekly (Photo: Tina M. Gohr/Your Key to the Door Weekly)

DOOR COUNTY – Beyond local businesses and entertainment, Door County’s scenic landscapes draw tourists to the area in droves every year. With that in mind, the county’s tourism bureau has created guidelines for tourists and locals alike to explore these natural treasures responsibly.

Destination Door County joined forces with Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, a Colorado-based environmental education nonprofit, to draft seven principles aimed at lessening human’s impact on the local environment, according to a press release from the organization.

The principles are the first step in Destination Door County’s ecotourism campaign. Community Advocacy Manager Cambria Mueller said ecotourism became a focus for the organization this spring when they switched from marketing the area to both selling and managing it. There’s currently not any definite plans for the campaign’s future, but their partnership with Leave No Trace is expected to continue in coming years.

Many principles protect people as much as the environment. They advise bikers to wear reflective gear and swimmers to sport life jackets, as well as urges people to travel on clear trails in order to avoid harmful plants or getting lost, which also protects the natural conditions. 

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The principles explained delicate limestone forms many of the bluffs, which makes the them unpredictable, so to protect both rocks and people, visitors should avoid getting close to the edge for that ideal sunset photograph. This also means avoid jumping off bluffs into water.

The concept “Know Before You Go” threads through all seven principles. Destination Door County urges people to research areas they plan to visit for various reasons, including knowing where trash receptacles are located. The list suggests travelers carry reusable bags to carry litter in before one reaches a garbage can.

Mueller said one of Door County communities largest problem occurs when people at events neglect to recycle. 

“We’re trying to gather information on what are steps that we could take to help them with that,” Mueller said. “A lot is going to be coming down the pipe with the partnership just on how we’re marketing to different groups of people.”

Mindfulness about waste aligns with another principle — “Leave it as you find it.” This means cleaning up after oneself, as well as leaving pieces of nature in place. Some Door County beaches, like School House Beach on Washington Island, prohibit removing rocks from their shores. It also means leaving wildlife as-is. Destination Door County’s principle explains feeding wild animals could expose them to threats and alter their natural behaviors. 

One wildlife behavior the tourism bureau hopes people help slow is the Emerald Ash Borer’s wood-boring. The small beetle feasts on ash trees, which people can prevent by sourcing firewood from within 15 miles. Destination Door County asks people to practice basic fire safety and lessen one’s footprint by using a camping stove. 

The final principle stresses respectful adventuring. People should not enter private properties and share natural areas, and of course maintain them in small ways, like cleaning up after pets. 

“Not that we don’t want every visitor to come to Door County, but we want to attract people that will be nice to our home and treat it respectfully,” Mueller said. 

The principles are intended for people who call Door County home just as much as tourists. Mueller said the partnership with Leave No Trace extends into next year, when they hope to offer more education for local residents. The principles and related information will appear on Destination Door County social media pages and newsletter, which Mueller said has more than 200,000 subscribers. 

Door County is the first tourism destination in Wisconsin to partner with Leave No Trace, according to the press release. The announcement comes shortly after the Door County Board of Supervisors voted for the area to become a Green Tier community, joining local municipalities including Ephraim and the village of Egg Harbor. Green Tier communities partner with nonprofits and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to implement sustainability practices locally.

Contact Sammy Gibbons at (920) 431-8396 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @sammykgibbons or Facebook at

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