The 2015 Sources of Knowledge Forum titled “The Great Arc: Life on the (L)Edge” took place in Tobermory on May 8-10, with the goal of building bridges to other communities which, like the Bruce, lie on the rim of the Michigan Basin.
This geological structure, often referred to as the “Great Arc”, extends from the Niagara Peninsula northward through the Bruce, across Manitoulin Island and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and then southward through the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin to Green Bay and beyond.
Communities situated on this Arc, while different in many ways, have in common an escarpment, sometimes submerged or buried, but very evident in areas such as the Bruce and Door peninsulas.
They share a dolostone bedrock chemistry. Where the rim is exposed, their soils are thin and rocky. Thanks to their common bedrock source, the soils support a similar biodiversity.
Learning about these communities is interesting in itself, but it is our common issues and the ways they have been addressed that form the core of this Forum. This year we focussed on that area of Wisconsin encompassing Green Bay and the Door Peninsula to the north. The Door and Bruce peninsulas in particular have geographical and geological similarities. The Door escarpment faces west and is referred to as the “Ledge”. The film shown to our National Park Visitors, featuring our escarpment, is called “Life on the Edge”, hence the Forum title.
Both economies depend on tourism, have offshore islands and tour boat operations, are home to retirees and artists, and depend on urban centres at their base (Green Bay and Owen Sound) for major supplies. Both have rich archeological and cultural histories, have First Nation communities, struggle with wind turbine issues, and have hiking trails and parks. John Muir, famous as the founder of the Sierra club, lived for a time at the base of both peninsulas!
There are also major differences. Green Bay is a much larger centre than Owen Sound. The Door is more heavily populated and economically more developed than the Bruce. In a sense, the Door represents one version of a future for the Bruce as we seek to develop economically; not necessarily the future we might choose, but worthy of study. Conversely, residents of the Door might envy the state of preservation of this area, and seek to learn from it.
The 2015 Forum provided opportunities to look at these possibilities. We worked with Eric Fowle of the East Wisconsin Planning Commission in preparation for this event, and attracted other officials and Wisconsin residents to the Forum. They even shared their local wines and cheeses with us!
As usual, the Forum included a Friday afternoon field trip, the Friday evening Film Festival with Dr. Stephen Scharper, and the Saturday evening social and dinner with keynote speaker.