by Betty Bardswich
SPRING BAY—The Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) held their annual general meeting on May 11, complete with two guest speakers and an election of board members.
Board chair Maja Mielonen welcomed members and guests and, after approval of the 2013 minutes, invited Pam Jackson, treasurer, to make her report. Ms. Jackson stated that the organization was in good financial shape and it was noted that registration fees for the Manitoulin Passage Ride had doubled from 2013 to 2014. This event for 2015 is sold out with 224 cyclists slated for the June 6 and 7 ride.
Ms. Mielonen then spoke of the history of MICA, which started in 2010, saying that the Island is now known as the best cycling destination in Northern Ontario. She talked of the great success that was previously obtained with the paving of shoulders on Highway 6 and noted that the bicycle paths for the road between Mindemoya and M’Chigeeng will be paved this summer. She also made mention of the many benefits for Manitoulin with the Passage Ride as businesses gain from this event in the off season of early June. Ms. Mielonen also noted that there is a network of over 12 routes on Manitoulin for cyclists and the organization has had great success in selling over 6,000 copies of their maps which are sold all over the Island and on the ferry. “This is ongoing,” Ms. Mielonen stated, “and really has changed the face of the Island and lots of new riders are coming on.”
Ms. Mielonen also talked of the Georgian Bay Cycle Route with over 1,000 kilometres for cycling. She spoke of the provincial funding announcement for CycleON that was made on April 1 to the sum of $25 million in cycling infrastructure. There is also $10 million slated for the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure to help municipalities expand their local cycling routes, connect with provincial routes and launch pilot projects to make cycling improvements. As Ms. Mielonen noted, MICA will tap into the municipal cycling plan.
MICA has been incorporated since the first of March and has also partnered with 4elements, an Island non profit arts organization started in 2002 and incorporated in 2009. Ms. Mielonen is a member of that organization’s board and the two groups will work together and promote each other. 4elements executive director Sophie Edwards was on hand at the MICA meeting to speak of initiatives of the organization, including the bike ride on Canada Day last year in Little Current, training workshops, get active with arts projects and land art at Providence Bay beach. Ms. Edwards announced funding from The Ontario Arts council to create the design for permanent sculpture on cycle trails. A trail sculpture project now in progress is with 17 students at Central Manitoulin Public School. The initial project was to design a sculpture using only wire and wood shims and to then cycle with Ms. Mielonen and Guy Nielen to the area where the finished sculpture will be. As Ms. Edwards noted, the impact of this project is to learn about cycling safety, bike routes and engage in participatory art making with the potential to have permanent sculptures that are site specific and created by local and visiting artists such as Michael Belmore, Bonnie Devine, Ann Marie Hadcock and community members.
Ms. Mielonen then spoke of the magazine This is Manitoulin which has a double page for cycling and was handed out by herself and Mr. Nielen at the Bike Show in Toronto. A survey done shows that 94 percent of people cycle while on vacation, 93 percent consider cycling when choosing a destination, 100 percent stop at points of interest with 93 percent being influenced by these points. As most cyclists start at a trailhead and follow signed route suggestions, MICA will now embark on a mission to convince the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to allow signage highlighting restaurants, sculptures and nature trails on provincial highways. A petition to begin with a pilot project for the way signs has started and will be available for signatures at the Manitoulin Trade Fair and Maja’s in Mindemoya.
The second guest speaker at the MICA meeting was Rick McCutcheon, publisher of The Expositor, who asked the members to use the creds that they have developed in other areas. “Your organization has impressed many,” Mr. McCutcheon, “and your association with 4e is great. You have gone from strength to strength in a short time. MICA is a serious player in the cycling world.”
Mr. McCutcheon also stressed the importance of MICA members and everyone to support the ferry and threw out the challenge for using MICA’s well-earned way of getting things done to support the ferry.
Ms. Mielonen agreed with Mr. McCutcheon, saying “it takes all of us to make an impact.”
MICA member Gary Fuhrman spoke of the 5th Annual Passage Ride, saying that a total number of 224 riders were registered with 201 people coming to Manitoulin with 156 of those taking the ferry, and 28 coming for the one-day ride with nine arriving by Chi-Cheemaun. The riders are coming from Michigan, Ohio, Ottawa, Toronto, Guelph and Caledonia area, Barrie Innisfil, Missauga and Oakville with 45 riders from Sudbury, North Bay. Espanola and Manitoulin.
It was also announced at the meeting that Lightfoot Bikes has moved from north of Mindemoya to Manitowaning on Highway 6 with Joshua Shaw being the new owner.
The final item on the MICA agenda was the election of board members with five positions open. Elected were Maja Mielonen, Peter Ford, Pam Jackson, Mathew Redmond and Joshua Shaw who will join board member Guy Nielen. It was noted that the board will elect directors.