The Heart of the Continent Partnership is a bi national collective of Provincial, State and National Parks, academic and community leaders from Ontario and Minnesota working on some great initiatives that will have a positive impact for the region and help Foster new bi national partnerships based on common goals around balancing community development with neighboring public protected lands.
The reality is quite simply that Thunder Bay is the gateway city to some of the world's best known wilderness parks - Quetico, Wabikimi, Sleeping Giant, the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area and even Isle Royale National Park across the border. Creating stronger links with these fantastic natural environment assets is critical to helping grow and diversify our tourism markets. For years, cities have ignored their neighboring parks and protected areas with the mistaken belief that they bring little tourism value to the communities. As demographic shift, a growing number of travellers seek outdoor experiences with a higher level of comfort, with the vast majority appreciating the experience but wishing for softer culinary and accommodation options nearby. For those seeking to "rough it", they need a place to stage, pick up gear and groceries and have a civilized respite at the end of their epic journey. This is where we, as a city, have to link in.
One of the initiatives undertaken by the HOCP is the Gateway Communities Forum, scheduled for the fall of 2011 and a number of us are currently working on the design and development of this conference, to be co hosted between Thunder Bay and Grand Portage - a truly international partnership.
On Wednesday October 6th, the public will have a chance to take in some public forums related to our parks and protected area neighbors and understand a little more about their ecological and economic importance.
Earth wind fire and Climate change : Whats the future of our Northern Forests and Communities, takes place in the University Centre 2011 - Upper Lecture Theatre at 4:30 PM and will explore the key ecological issues of today int he region
Public Conservation - Balancing Nature and Commerce in Communities that Neighbor Public Lands, is an open conversation with members of the Gateway Communities Initiative Design Team and the public to discuss how public lands and communities can thrive side by side in an positive economic framework. This discussion takes place in the ATAC Building Room 5035 from 7 to 9 PM
For more information on the Heart of the Continent Partnership, visit their website @ www.heartofthecontinent.org