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Great Lakes Islands Alliance Meets At Put-in-Bay

After two years of pandemic delays, this year’s Great Lakes Islands Alliance summit (GLIA) was almost scuttled due to high winds and a possible shutdown of the ferry to South Bass Island on Sunday. But islanders are a resilient group, and despite some sizable swells, everyone began to arrive Sunday afternoon.

Eight states, one province, and two countries were represented; registration peaked at 95, although a few people canceled due to family, COVID, and Hurricane Ian. The fall weather for the rest of the Summit was spectacular. The Sunday night reception and mingling, coupled with a tasty turkey dinner at the Boathouse Bar and Grill, set the tone for the Summit. Each day started with a 7 a.m. eye-opener breakfast and work session. This year’s Summit would take participants to five islands in four days.

Great Lakes Islands Alliance Tours Island Services

The Infrastructure tour went to the Senior Center and Put-in-Bay Volunteer Fire Department, where heads of the Senior Center, Put-in-Bay Police, Fire, and EMS explained island services. From there, they went to the library and were given a tour of the Put-in-Bay School. They then visited the National Park Service Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial for a talk about the three-year seawall reconstruction by Superintendent Barbara Rowles.

They then visited the Put-in-Bay airport for an explanation by Port Authority Secretary Rosann Keiser about how the airport plays a vital role in transportation, mail delivery, and freight forwarding. Meanwhile, the Tourism tour went to Perry’s Cave to see the cave and Butterfly House and listened to Dee Dee Duggan, owner of the cave and Island Transportation, explain the evolution of island transportation and hospitality.

This theme continued as the tour went to the Heineman Winery to hear Ed Heineman, head winemaker, explain the Island’s wine industry, but since it was mid-morning, the beverage offered to the participants was grape juice.

The next stop was the South Bass Island State Park and a photo-op at the new Put-in-Bay Sign The Lake Erie Islands Nature and Wildlife Center was visited and hosted by steering committee alternate Renee Fultz, who spoke about how the Center has expanded its displays and programs offered to the public.

Great Lakes Islands Alliance Experience Both Ferry Services

Both tours then went to the Miller Boat Line Lime Kiln Dock and were transported to Middle Bass Island for lunch served by the Island Grind. The keynote speaker was Dr. Jeffrey Reutter, who gave an information-packed overview of Lake Erie ecosystems, eutrophication, fisheries, and pollution. His PowerPoint presentation will be made available to Great Lakes Islands Alliance members, and it is recommended that all islanders hear or view his recommendations on how we all must take an active role and become voices in the future for water quality and fisheries for all the Great Lakes.

After lunch, all participants were taken by bus to see examples of land conservation, as explained by Lisa Brohl. This was followed by a walking tour, led by Robert Skul, to see the former Lonz Winery, Middle Bass Island Marina and the state park is a great example of a public-private partnership.

At 6 p.m., we all took the Miller Ferry to downtown Put-in-Bay for another dinner at the Boathouse, followed by entertainment at the Island’s favorite night spot, “The Round House Bar.” Tuesday, breakfast was at 7 a.m. to allow an 8:30 a.m. departure on the Jet Express to Kelleys Island. Everyone stopped for a group photograph before boarding Island Transportation buses to visit the world-renowned “Glacial Grooves,” explained by Chris Ashley of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

We also visited a historic stone crushing site and the Kelleys Island Alvar before heading to the Kelleys Island School for lunch and a presentation by Kellys Island superintendent Todd Hanes who explained the challenges of operating a school with such low enrollment that the number of teachers often exceeded the number of students.

The KI elementary school students, led by music teacher CC Wisniewski provided a musical interlude before Mr. Hanes gave his inspiring presentation on how the KI School is used in multiple ways by KI citizens. In the afternoon, we visited a pollinator habitat developed on public land near the airport that provides a perfect habitat for dozens of species of insects, including migrating monarch butterflies.

Jackie Taylor and Chris Ashley laid out the process for developing the habitat, which will prove useful to others planning similar facilities elsewhere. The final stop on Kelleys was at Charles Herndon’s sculpture studio and gallery, which provided a good example of how the arts can be an integral part of island commerce.
We returned to Put-in-Bay and headed to the Boardwalk dock for the water taxi to Gibraltar Island, owned by Ohio State University and home
to the OSU Stone Lab, classrooms, dorms, and Cooke’s Castle. OSU Students gave Great Lakes Islands Alliance participants a detailed overview of the Island’s history and role in understanding the ecology of Lake Erie.

After returning to Put-in-Bay, we were treated to an outstanding meal at the ‘Upper Deck’ at the Boardwalk Restaurant and a presentation to the Great Lakes Islands Alliance by Dr. Brian Alford, Assistant Director at Stone Lab, about their mission and current research programs.

Following breakfast at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, we undertook some Great Lakes Islands Alliance business which included affirming membership on the Steering Committee for the coming year and discussing suggestions for our focus over the next few years. There was a resounded agreement that emphasis should be given to supporting and connecting island educators. At 8:15 a.m., we boarded the Jet Express to Pelee Island.Great Lakes Islands Alliance aboard the Jet Express

Thanks to Sharon Cox for creating our manifest and Captain Kelly Freimark for managing to sign up late participants. We arrived at Pelee Island and passed through customs ahead of schedule. We were greeted by our Great Lakes Islands Alliance host Dave DeLellis in the island trolley and taken to the Pelee Island Winery, where Alyssa Dreiman- Staples’s winery team was ready with coffee and tea.

The program included presentations by the Pelee Island Township Clerk Kristine Horst, Pelee Island historian Ron Tiessen, marketing director Matthew Gale, and inspirational speaker George Paisiovich who explained how Pelee residents united to take on the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources through non-combative messaging and coordinated meetings. It was awesome to hear about the David and Goliath scenario and the success that came from George’s leadership.

After the morning program, a gourmet lunch was served with contributions from all the restaurants on Pelee Island. Included was a wine tasting, with the event being a good example of island cooperation. After lunch, most on the trip waited in line to buy a bottle or two of wine! That afternoon we split into three tour groups, winemaking and history, conservation, and infrastructure. Some saw the Vin Villa, a historic wine cellar and group venue, and some saw the butterfly sanctuary and the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s newly constructed wetlands.

Others saw the Pelee Island Heritage Center, the native drum circle program at the quarry, the water treatment plant, and the historic Stone House, now a beautiful restaurant and brewery. We rounded everyone up for a quick trip home on the Jet Express to downtown Put-in-Bay where we were greeted by the U.S. Customs team to check us in. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. A comment from Great Lakes Islands Alliance steering committee member Joe Shorthouse that resonated with us was, “Great Summit. It will take weeks to digest what we learned and to establish dialogues with new contacts.

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