The Great Lakes contain the largest, most diverse collection of freshwater islands in the world. Of the 32,000 islands in the Great Lakes, nearly twenty continue to host communities of people, typically a mix of year-round and seasonal residents and transient visitors.
While present-day island communities are uniquely distinct from one another in character, traditions, and geography, they share a number of complex, inter-related challenges, including: access to public services and quality education, supporting a diversified economy, managing natural, cultural, and historical resources across public and private boundaries, and changing demographics (size, age, seasonality, ownership, economic status, etc.).
These challenges are hurdles, not immovable barriers. In fact, some island communities have already independently developed their own “island solutions to island challenges.” Island communities are finding they often have more in common with one another than to their adjacent mainland. There is great value in islanders learning from other islanders about best practices that work, as well as those that don’t.