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Silent sports connect community with nature

Silent sports connect community with nature

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A new group has formed to promote “silent sports” and aims to market the La Crosse area as “Nature’s Place to Play.”

“What are silent sports?” Ralph Heath said with a laugh. “That’s a good question. We’re in the process of boiling it down.”

Heath is a board member of the newly formed Outdoor Recreation Alliance, whose mission is to promote silent sports in the 7 Rivers Region. The ORA is partnering with Heath’s brand strategy organization Synergy Leadership Group and regional leadership group 7 Rivers Alliance.

From trailhead mountain biking to backwater kayaking to bluff-top bird-watching, silent sports emphasize working with unspoiled natural terrain, as opposed to other sports that require construction or man-made structures.

“Bluffs, rivers, trails, marshes — the terrain here is so authentic,” Heath said. “Other destinations have to carve out unnatural things, like waterparks. What we have here is special.”

The partnership effort is the first ever “collaborative push” to promote silent sports in the La Crosse, said Vicki Markussen, executive director of the 7 Rivers Alliance.

“The goal is to share the vision for (La Crosse) to become an outdoor destination of choice,” she said. “We want to unite people around that vision, get feedback on how to achieve it and identify the next steps to accomplish it as a region.”

The group’s first order of business is to unite key stakeholders around this common interest with an Outdoor Recreation Summit, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 25.

“There are a lot of outdoor groups and enthusiasts in the area that have not had a unifying umbrella,” Markussen said. “This is the attempt to create alignment and a common path so we’re not so fragmented.”

This group includes government entities, legislators, outdoor-focused companies as well as users. Besides presenting their plan and vision for the future of the La Crosse area, the summit seeks to begin building a base of financial support and generating interest among outdoor recreation companies to share the work of the plan.

“This creates a ripple effect — it helps build the brand for some of our outdoor manufacturing companies, and it benefits the region in terms of utilizing an existing asset — the tourism draw,” Markussen said.

In addition to the summit, the ORA plans to launch its website mid-September, which will provide visitors with a first-ever comprehensive guide to silent sports resources in the La Crosse area.

“What we hope to debut is an easier, more formal way to link together our community,” Heath said. “It will be a place where people can come together and share information.”

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