The Alcona Fall Color Tour is about more than fall colors

Outside of the spectacular color landscape and beautiful autumn weather, bus tour participants were offered an inside view of their community from a unique perspective – their finite water system.

The Alcona Fall Color Tour occurs once a year in October with two identical back-to-back eight-hour trips. Each year the tour theme remains a secret within the planning committee until the participants board the school bus to parts unknown. Tickets are sold the day after Labor Day, when a line forms outside of the local Michigan State University Extension office up to three hours before the doors open.

Brainstorming a theme is the first order of business when the tour planners begin meeting in February. The 2014 theme was “A Drop of Water.” On October 3 & 4, 2013, ticketholders had the opportunity to learn about the importance of water in our world, its uses and the necessity for a wide array of water systems. Local educators, representing a variety of organizations, provided research-based knowledge and led hands-on visits to municipal and industrial water systems and public water usage facilities. They even learned how important water is to the efficiency and overall survival of the human body. Additional stops included a closer look at the area aquifers, artesian wells and watersheds, as well as private and public lakes and streams. The history of the region was included when speakers shared the effect of early lumbering on many of the local lakes, filling them with sawdust. Current conservation efforts were also described. Lunch included fresh Lake Huron whitefish filets, harvested by the Legends of the Lake cooperative, which ‘processes some of the finest fish in Michigan’.

Louis CampbellPhoto: Louis Campbell, Harrisville City worker explains how the water pumping station works.

There really is power in looking at your community in a new way. Planners left the participants with one final thought: all the water we have now is all the water we will ever have.

At the end of the day, as passengers disembarked, their comments indicated how much they had learned about the importance of water in their lives and their communities!

To learn more about the annual Alcona County bus tour contact the Alcona Michigan State University Extension office. Furthermore, a quick internet search will provide additional information about how other communities across the state, as well as internationally, have used a similar concept to help people become tourists in their own communities.

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