On Saturday, May 26, they opened the Great Lakes Eco-Adventure Center in an unusual office space, a tawny brown yurt located at the corner of Straits Highway and Martha Street in Indian River.
David VanSlembrouck offered some individual approaches to the 'eco' part of their adventure tours.
"All of our tours are self-propelled," he said. "Our tours are on foot, or by off-road bicycles, and kayaks through quiet waters, leaving no trace. In addition, we request that every participant of our tours carry one piece of trash out of the wilderness."
According to the VanSlembroucks and Engler, the Great Lakes Eco-Adventure Center offers hiking, bicycling and kayaking tours throughout the region including the Pigeon River Country State Forest, the Great Lakes shorelines and islands, as well as the Inland Waterway. Both day tours and overnight tours are available.
In addition to bicycle and kayak rentals, drop-off and pick-up services, and yurt sales, the trio said an important benefit provided by the center is their guide services.
Great Lakes Eco-Adventure Center offers both full guide services and limited guide support services. Full guide services include an experienced guide who accompanies groups on day trips or overnight tours.
Guide support services provide supplies and meals along the tours at pre-determined checkpoints. The center's guides also consider that teaching their clients about nature is an important part of their work.
To the VanSlembroucks and Engler, Indian River was the perfect place to open the center. The city is centrally located to many of the Northern Michigan adventure locations. Within a short drive, the 62-mile North Central State Recreational Trail, the Great Waters region of Michigan, the Inland Waterway and the 80-mile High Country Pathway in the Pigeon River Valley are all available.
"We are an eco-adventure enterprise that employs sustainable tourism practices by involving local businesses and communities," said Jerry VanSlembrouck. "We are working with other businesses to make Northern Michigan a tourist destination. We support the Indian River Biathlon and we are the primary sponsor for the Youth Biathlon on July 22."
The VanSlembroucks added that the center participates in the chamber of commerce sponsored business after hours gatherings, and is planning to sponsor a 'Paddle-Palooza' in Petoskey in the near future. According to VanSlembrouck, the event will focus on kayaking instruction, and is planned to be in the harbor area.
The VanSlembroucks and Engler plan to expand into kayaking and backpacking instruction. David VanSlembrouck said the business is already planning to provide corporate outbound training and is considering guided snowshoe treks and cross country skiing tours as their business grows.
The Great Lakes Eco-Adventure Center can be reached 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily at 6016 Martha St., Indian River. Phone (231) 881-7863, email email@example.com or visit www.glecenter.com.