THUNDER BAY - A new campaign is celebrating the majesty of the Great Lakes and their importance to 40 million residents of Canada and the United States who live in the Great Lakes basin.
Greatness The Great Lakes Project was announced on Oct. 6 at the bi-national Great Lakes Public Forum in Toronto.
The project was born out of a series of roundtables hosted over the past year by Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell.
Organizers say it will use history, art, culture and recreation to strengthen the importance of the lakes for everyone living near them.
Campaign co-founder Douglas Wright calls the Great Lakes “equal to the Rockies or the Grand Canyon.” Wright said their scope makes the lakes difficult to grasp.
“After all, you can’t see across them, but you can see them from outer space.”
Wright said the Great Lakes may be taken for granted sometimes as a result of their sheer size, but when viewed from a distance the massive ecosystem is “magical, incredible.”
He said the project was inspired partly by the efforts of First Nations elder Josephine Mandamin who has walked the shorelines of the Great Lakes to promote the conservation of water.
Organizers ultimately hope to establish an international centre as a focus of Great Lakes celebrations and to reinforce the shared responsibility for preserving the lakes.
A number of supporters have already come on board, including the Council of the Great Lakes Region, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Algoma Shipping and Redpath Sugar.
Campaign co-founder Karen Kun said the initiative has already begun to support activities connecting people with the Great Lakes. As an example, she cited Great Waters Challenge, a new online game for youth.
Another project, Great Art for Great Lakes, involves a series of art and learning workshops focused around eight communities building up toward celebrating Ontario’s 150th birthday. Thunder Bay is one of the participating communities.
Kun said Greatness The Great Lakes Project will recognize that people around the lakes use them differently.
“The overarching message is that all activities, including tourism, industry, culture, recreation and those connected with the environment, rely on the lakes being cherished and used in sustainable ways.”