Sources of Knowledge Forum

The upcoming 2015 Sources of Knowledge Forum, titled “The Great Arc: Life on the (L)Edge,” will take place in Tobermory, Ontario, May 8-10, 2015. Its goal is to build bridges to other communities which, like the Bruce Peninsula, lie on the rim of the Michigan Basin.

Life on the Ledge of the Great Arc The Niagara Escarpment , often referred to as the “Great Arc,” is a prominent geologic feature that extends visibly from western New York State, through southern Ontario, Manitoulin Island and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, before descending southward through the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin and our Eastern Highlands just past the Horicon Marsh basin.

Communities situated on the Great Arc, while different in many ways, have in common this special underlying geological feature, sometimes submerged or buried, but very evident in areas such as the ‘mirror imaged’ Door and Bruce Peninsulas.   This year’s forum intends to explore those commonalities and differences of these two prominent Great Lakes peninsulas.

Generalized Location of Niagara Escarpment in North AmericaFor examples, we all share a dolostone bedrock chemistry; and, where the Escarpment’s rim is exposed, the soils are thin and rocky.   The cliffs of the Escarpment, however; face west in the Door, and east in the Bruce.   Thanks also to this common bedrock source, the soils support a similar biodiversity of flora and fauna, although it is fair to say that The Bruce is quite a bit more ‘wild’ than the heavily worked farm fields or tourism developed lands of the Door.

Both economies depend – to some degree – on tourism, they both have offshore islands and tour boat operations, are home to retirees and artists, and have stronger urban centers near their base (Sturgeon Bay and Owen Sound) for major supplies. Both contain rich archeological and cultural histories, have First Nation communities, struggle with groundwater contamination and wind turbine issues, as well as offering a vast array of hiking trails and parks.   In fact, the notable John Muir, famous founder of the Sierra Club, lived for a time at the base of both peninsulas!

The Door Peninsula is more heavily populated and economically developed than the Bruce. In a sense, the Door may represent one version of a desired future for the Bruce, as this Canadian region seeks to address challenges in developing economically.   Conversely, residents of the Door might envy the state of preservation that exists in the Bruce, and seek to learn from it.

The 2015 Forum will provide opportunities to examine these connections and future collaborative possibilities, such as the potential for seeking a UNESCO Geo-Park designation.  Forum planners are working with Eric Fowle of the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (co-founder of the Niagara Escarpment Resource Network (NERN) and Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership board member) in preparing for this event, and we invite local elected officials, resource professionals, students and interested Wisconsin residents to make the trek as well.

This year’s Forum will include field trips along the Escarpment, a Friday evening Film Festival with Dr. Stephen Scharper (a renowned Canadian author, professor at the University of Toronto, and scholar of religion and the environment), and a Saturday evening social and a Saturday dinner with this year’s keynote speaker Dr. Joanne Kluessendorf, Director of the Weis Earth Science Museum in Menasha (and also a NERN Steering Committee member).

For more information about the forum and registration keep watch the website:  Do consider marking May 8-10, 2015 on your calendars for a breath-taking trip to the Bruce Peninsula if you have the resources to travel to Ontario.   Be sure to take along our locally produced wines and cheeses to share if you do!  If not, then consider joining us closer to home, June 5 and 6, for this year’s Sustainable Living Fair and Friday night event at Crossroads at Big Creek in Sturgeon Bay to learn more about this exciting collaboration between Ontario and Wisconsin.  Celebrating and elevating our common Niagara Escarpment!