Green Living Expo rocks Kagawong Park Centre

Planting a tree for the opening ceremonies were Sharon Montgomery, Algoma- Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes, Billings Mayor Austin Hunt, LAMBAC general Manager Mary Nelder and Recreation Committee Chair Barb Erskine.

KAGAWONG—The Green Living Expo held at Kagawong’s Park Centre was packed throughout the day with people eager to learn more about all things green and conservationist, from the ‘How Not to Run an Environmental Network’ talk by reThink Green (Sudbury) Executive Director Justin Carter following the Friday evening wine and cheese reception and a performance by the Folk Roots Collective to the Living Green Trade Show that ran all Saturday, May 10, the Green Living Expo had something for everyone.

Presented by the Billings Recreation Committee, with the generous assistance of LAMBAC, the Green Living Expo events on Saturday were provided free of charge. The evening wine and cheese and entertainment sported a $20/person charge (first glass of wine complementary with admission).

A series of workshops complemented the dozens of green living vendors who were on hand to sell their wares and to provide consultation on everything from heat pumps and solar panels to organic food products and health aids. Workshop topics included ‘Sustainable Farming’ with Glenn Black, wielding a petition in support of his battle with the chicken supply management system; ‘Provincial and Municipal Cycling Efforts’ with cycling activist Maja Mielonen of Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) and an historical and contemporary look at ‘Trees’ and the use of lumber for sustainable construction projects.

“We are very happy with how things have turned out today,” said Billings Recreation Committee and Green Living Expo organizing chair Barb Erskine. “It is so nice to see the number of people who have come out to this first trade show.”

Ms. Erskine explained that the committee envisions the Green Living Expo taking place biannually, in the year alternating with the Manitoulin Trade Fair.

“We thought about it a lot,” she said. “The alternating year approach really makes a lot of sense.” Like the Manitoulin Trade Show, the Green Living Expo hopes to build a sense of anticipation and excitement around the trade show by holding it every second year.

Ms. Mielonen was also very pleased with the event. Never one to miss an opportunity to proselytize about all things cycling, the bicycling activist took attendees through a short history of what MICA has accomplished on Manitoulin since forming in 2010, including paved shoulders on Highway 6 and a commitment by the Ministry of Transportation to pave shoulders on Highway 551 in 2015; the publishing of the Manitoulin Cycling Routes and Road Map (entering its second printing).

“Our 2013 survey showed that 69 percent of our visitors are using our map and 95 percent of them found it very useful,” she said.

Ms. Mielonen noted that June 7 and 8 will see the 4th annual Manitoulin Passage Ride in conjunction with the Chi-Cheemaun ferry and the Owen Sound Transportation Company. “We already have 95 people signed up,” she said. “That is already a significant rise from last year at this time.” Over 4,000 cyclists were counted on the ferry in 2013, noted Ms. Mielonen. “Our surveys showed that the average cyclist stayed 6.5 days on Manitoulin in 2013.” Since most cyclists carry very little with them on their bicycles, the economic impact of those visitors tends to be even higher than the average.

Ms. Mielonen also described progress on the Georgian Bay Cycling Route, which encompasses over 1,000 kilometres of stunning scenery around the beautiful Georgian Bay waters. “A keen cyclist is able to ride the entirety of this route in a full week,” she said. A good portion of the route crosses Manitoulin Island.

“What I would really like to focus on for the future is a concept called ‘Complete Streets,” said Ms. Mielonen. “We would really like to see Espanola become a pilot project for the concept.”

“Under complete streets, roads and adjacent public streets are designed for people of all ages, abilities and modes of travel,” she said. “We believe many Northern towns can easily embrace the Complete Streets concept.” Ms. Mielonen encouraged people to go to MICA’s website at manitoulincycling.com and check out a video presentation on the concept.

The benefits of the concept are clear. Retail sales are demonstrably higher, studies in New York City resulted in a 49 percent increase in retail sales and a 47 percent decrease in commercial vacancies.

The social benefits are even greater. “Accidents decrease and safety increases,” she said. “Communities with complete street designs grow into strong communities that are beautiful to the eye and soul.”

MICA extended an invitation to their May 26 annual general meeting at the Spring Bay Community Hall at 7 pm to learn more about how they can continue to promote Manitoulin Island as a cycling destination.

Arboreal enthusiast Ken Pearce of Providence Bay took attendees through a whirlwind historical tour of wooden construction, right up to modern times. Wood, he noted, is a viable option for complete construction of a home, from the foundation up.

In addition to economic and environmental advantages inherent in constructing buildings of all types with lumber, there is an important added incentive when building a home. “Wood is cozy,” said Mr. Pearce. “Cozy is a good word in a home.”