The Madeline Island conference was informative and exciting as 14 island and island communities were represented by the more than 80 participants.
The Great Lakes Islands Alliance
serves to "encourage relationship building, foster information exchange, and leverage resources to address shared challenges and embrace opportunities to benefit the island communities." A group charter was established to outline a common mission, goals and an organizational structure. A community resource directory was formed providing an inventory of island contacts across a variety of services and programs. An initiative was established with Northland's College Center for Rural Communities to gather data and indicators of what makes island communities great places to live, work and play. And finally a legislative response group was begun aimed at communicating with legislators to help address the specific needs of island communities.
We discussed a variety of concerns over two days: water levels on the Great Lakes; affordable housing issues; economic development; and sustainable energy. We heard about how the township on Madeline Island has five of its seven buildings solar powered through grants and other funding sources.
The Alliance members include:
Wisconsin: Madeline Island in lake Superior, and Washington Island in Lake Michigan.
Ohio: Middle Bass Island, South Bass Island, and Kelleys Island in Lake Erie.
Canada: Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, and Pelee Island in Lake Erie.
Michigan: Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, Harsens Island in Lake St. Clair, and Bois Blanc, Drummond Island, Neebish Island, Mackinac Island and Les Cheneaux Islands in Lake Huron.
Next year the conference will be held on Mackinac Island. It will be an opportunity for other community organizations, i.e. Chambers of Commerce, schools, granting organizations, to attend the conference to learn about how other island communities are addressing our unique issues.