This summer Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness welcomed interns to our team. Ruby Lenertz is from Tucson, Arizona, where she attends the University of Arizona, studying environmental studies and anthropology. Ruby now serves as the Outreach Intern for the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. Mac Leaf is from Winona, MN, and moved up to Ely in 2021 to attend the Vermilion Campus of MN North College. Mac graduated this spring with a degree in Wilderness and Parks Management, and proceeded to join the team as an intern for Boundary Waters Connect. Ruby and Mac were involved in the planning and execution of the Save the Boundary Waters float in the Ely Fourth of July parade. Together they wrote the following blog post about their Fourth of July Parade experience.
The Ely community proves itself to be prepared, invested, and die-hard Fourth of July celebrators - we drove through the town at 8:30 AM to see the streets already lined with colorful chairs, blankets, and caution tape to mark sitting areas. Almost no one was walking the streets, everyone seemed to be preparing for the hectic day ahead of them, just as we were. Driving through town and seeing the enthusiasm and preparedness of Ely gave all of us a boost in energy and optimism about spreading our message of protecting America’s Wilderness.
The morning started with assembling our Save the Boundary Waters float and of course, getting Ima (the inflatable loon) perched on the trailer decked out in stars and stripes. After an hour of hanging streamers and banners and assembling a nest, our float was complete. Ima stood tall and proud. After the initial test of the float to make sure Ima would survive the drive, we took to the staging area and hydrated ourselves for the long and hot day ahead of us, shaking our heads at the weather forecast for saying it would rain all day. Our parade volunteers started trickling in, and we got them settled in and prepared for the walk. A lucky two of our volunteers got to sit on the float with Ima.
As the line started moving, you could see the passion and enthusiasm for Save the Boundary Waters start bubbling over within our volunteers. Everyone was excited to get out there and walk alongside us, and we were ecstatic to have their support. None of the work we do would have nearly as much of an impact without the help and support of our volunteers. (THANK YOU!) As we started down our route, we got our first interactions from the crowd waiting to see us go by, and the immediate support we received was overwhelming; this support continued with us as we traveled along the streets. Joyous cheering and excitement were radiating from the community about our work and dedication to the wilderness. As we chanted “Save the Boundary Waters!” children and adults alike joined in the chorus with passion. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a community with so much support and love.
On the Fourth of July, we celebrated the idea that the Boundary Waters is America’s Wilderness. The celebration of freedom on the Fourth of July also celebrates the idea that freedom comes with public access to Wilderness. It’s essential to our nation. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is not only an incredible mental health outlet, hub of recreational activity, and natural beauty to have at our doorstep, but it is also essential to solving the climate crisis. The Boundary Waters is made up of a mixed boreal forest, and, on average, an acre of boreal forest land holds 180 tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere. The Boundary Waters is public land, which belongs to EVERYONE, and it is everyone’s individual right to its’ beauty and the abundant opportunities within. It is important to protect it due to it being utilized by so many people for so many different reasons. Some people hike, some kayak, some fish, some are naturalists, some have never been in a wilderness area at all, and some (like Mother Earth) need it to survive. THAT is what we are saving.
As we came to a close on our parade route, we thanked our volunteers, business owners, and local community and parted ways with them as we took to disassembling the float. During this disassembling, we had a lot of time to think about our experience in the parade. Of course, we loved being able to speak loudly for this quiet place and show pride and passion for the place we believe in. Our love for Ely is passionate, but we need to turn that passion into purposeful action. That is what Save the Boundary Waters is doing: purposeful action for something we believe in. Thank all of you who believe in it too!
Written by Mac Leaf and Ruby Lenertz