Great Lakes Islands Alliance established

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A view of a dock on Madeline Island looking out at Lake Superior

Sept. 12, 2018

Islanders connect at GLIA Summit to support strong Great Lakes communities

A group of islanders and partners smile for the camera at the summit on Madeline Island, Wisconsin

People build communities everywhere.

In the Great Lakes, natural beauty, abundant resources and water-based industries draw people to live near the coast. Some take that a step further and choose to live surrounded entirely by water in an island community. 

More than 30,000 islands rise out of the waters of the Great Lakes, and just a few dozen are home to year-round communities. These unique communities face similar challenges and can learn from each other’s triumphs and struggles. 

Drawing inspiration from an existing network of coastal Maine islands, the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, Northland College of Wisconsin, Island Institute, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and other partners are supporting an emerging, voluntary network of Great Lakes islands communities.

Lake Michigan’s largest island, Beaver Island, hosted an inaugural summit in 2017; in October 2018, the newly-minted Great Lakes Islands Alliance moved north to Lake Superior for a second gathering. Community members from 13 islands traveled by plane, car, and ferryboat to reach Madeline Island, located in the Apostle Islands Archipelago of northern Wisconsin.

Last year’s summit sparked the idea of the Great Lakes Island Alliance. Now, with an official charter and volunteer steering committee, it’s beginning to fledge into a working network. Members will use their collective knowledge and connections to develop solutions to universal challenges of island life.

A painted mural on the side of a building depicting local Madeline Island culture - Beyer

At the summit, community members explored solutions to critical issues including affordable housing, economic development, variable Great Lakes water levels, and sustainable energy sources. Alliance members plan to continue this work, reach out to additional island communities and reconnect at a third event.

For its third summit, the Great Lakes Islands Alliance will return to Michigan with Mackinac Island hosting in fall 2019.

Learn more about the network on the Great Lakes Islands Alliance website or by contacting GLIA Coordinator Matt Preisser


Image Credits: 

Header: Dock on Madeline Island, WI. Michigan OGL. 

Group Photo: 2018 Summit Participants, Oxygen Imagery and Web Design

Mural: Local art on Madeline Island, Kristy Beyer

The Office of the Great Lakes works in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

DNR logo