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Looking to make Beaver Island's Economic Future Brighter!

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Patrick S. McGinnity

Joined: 23 Mar 2013
Posts: 50
Location: Beaver Island

PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 10:49 am    Post subject: Looking to make Beaver Island's Economic Future Brighter! Reply with quote

Beaver Island has an exceptional opportunity to launch its own Island Fellow program modeled on a highly successful one on Maine's islands over the past 17 years. In response to goals identified at numerous community meetings over the past two years, our Island Fellow would focus on communications to advance economic development and public safety through a multi-media communication position reaching not only visitors and residents, but also the mainland. A concerted and engaging communication's effort key to celebrating our past and moving Beaver Island forward. Whether sharing stories that portray our island as a wonderful place to visit, retire, or raise a family; promoting the wealth of recreational and cultural activities the archipelago has to offer; or conveying important information pertaining to public safety or responsible use of our recreational resources, an energized and highly-qualified Island Fellow will be the integral to improving community communications on the island and beyond.

More than half of the total cost to have an Island Fellow for a year is being covered by the State of Michigan, and an additional $10,000 has been raised in the community from various forward-thinking island organizations and businesses. Beaver Island has until May 1st to secure the balance required to insert an Island Fellow for a year into our community. Can we secure the remaining $10,000 before May 1st so that Beaver Island can reap the benefits of the Island Fellows program as so many Maine islands have done for years? We believe we can, and with your help we will. A substantial portion of this amount could be covered with an in-kind contribution of simple housing for the Island Fellow for a year (a one room apartment or the equivalent).

If you are interested in additional information about the position and the benefits the island stands to gain, check out the March 29th Forum post or contact one of the organizers of this effort listed below. Anyone who wants to help fund this position through either a cash donation, or the offer of free or reduced-price rental for a year are encouraged to ask for a copy of the Site Application which has been shared with both townships by contacting Kevin Boyle, Pam Grassmick, or Patrick McGinnity.

You can learn more about the very successful Island Fellow program run by the Maine Island Institute and see how useful Island Fellows focused on communications and outreach have been in advancing economic development on their islands at And to find out more about the Island Institute visit
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Jim Gallagher

Joined: 08 Jan 2007
Posts: 11
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 2:51 pm    Post subject: Island Fellows Program Reply with quote

Very interesting. I am not one to usually comment on any topics but this strikes a chord.

Non native graduates and under-grads fixing what is wrong with the island; ..."help build sustainability within communities whose way of life and identity face many challenges."

It would be better to encourage native islanders to enrich the island through fellowship within the churches and community entities.

I find this disturbing.
Description copied from

The Island Fellows Program is one of the signature programs of the Island Institute. Since 1999, the Island Fellows Program has placed college and masterís degree graduates in Maineís coastal and year-round island communities to work on community projects. Through this experience, Fellows gain an understanding of resources, challenges, and way of life along the Maine coast. Fellowships provide a unique opportunity for recent graduates to apply their skills and experience to help build sustainability within communities whose way of life and identity face many challenges.

Island or remote coastal communities complete an extensive application process to host an Island Fellow in residence to work with local organizations on a specific project. Host communities also get a voice in choosing the Fellow. Though the Fellowship is centered around a project, more generalized skills such as flexibility, openness, and the desire to live and work in a rural community are what make a successful Fellow.

Recent completion of undergraduate or graduate degree (within five years), the ability to work in the United States. Background checks may be required for Fellows working with vulnerable populations.
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Joined: 11 Oct 2015
Posts: 27

PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:59 pm    Post subject: Island Fellow Reply with quote

The Island Institute in Maine has developed a very successful Fellow program over the last 17 years. The Island Fellows have made significant economic and social contributions to their island communities. The Fellows are well chosen with extensive education and proven to be a huge asset. 100 Fellows to date have been placed on the Maine's islands.

Beaver Island is at a crossroads. We have an aging and a declining population and a shrinking enrollment at our school. The number of young people on our island continues to decline because of the lack of economic opportunity. We are at a risk of becoming a ghost community.

The Island Fellow program is widely supported as evidenced by the turn out at the community meetings with the Island Institute. The program has been hugely successful and we are fortunate to be able to utilize it here. This is an opportunity to improve our marketing and visibility which will result in increased economic benefits for us all and allow younger people to stay on the island. They are the future of the island.

It is time to explore new options and enrich the paradise that is Beaver Island. The upside is a flourishing island and and a bright future. There is no downside to trying our best.
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Joined: 10 Dec 2012
Posts: 188
Location: beaver island

PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:58 am    Post subject: yes Reply with quote

I have been gone but would welcome anything that shows people working together for a good cause!
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Rob Cole

Joined: 13 May 2010
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Brad, thanks for clearly affirming the need to apply innovative solutions to the very real problems facing the island in this new century. It is increasingly clear to many that BI is at a crucial turning point in its history; a time when connecting to resources beyond its shores is more important than ever to help ensure the community's survival and regeneration. In the face of these serious challenges, turning within won't help BI navigate inevitable change. In truth, that reaction would only cement it's decline along the lines you've described. That is the truly disturbing scenario here -- not the prospect of enlisting the aid of young, capable, intelligent people with an enthusiastic dedication to improving the lives of those they work with.

Beyond that, this is not an either-or situation. Both island residents and stakeholders and thoughtful partners from outside the community can and should collaborate to envision and implement strategies to bring new life to the unique and beautiful gem that is Beaver Island. In the past such partnerships have helped secure natural areas for public access; preserved local historical sites; and brought much-needed tourist and visitor dollars by sponsoring sports events, environmental activities like birding and biking, and many arts and cultural offerings.

It's been said that the single most defining factor in the decline of any entity is a failure of the imagination. That doesn't have to be the case here. But it was the case in other island communities over the decades. One need only look around the very archipelago Beaver Island is part of to recognize that. The Manitou's, Fox's, High and Garden Islands--all of these isles once had small but active communities on them, some of them much closer to the mainland than Beaver. A time-lapse view of the past 120 years would show all of those settlements disappearing, generation after generation.

The same fate can befall BI. And that would be a tragedy not only for those who call it home but for the many who have loved it as summer residents and visitors over the years. It doesn't have to go that way. But it will, if actions aren't taken now to prevent that outcome. It's time to imagine a new way forward; not to stay fatally lodged in denial of reality or fear of change. Credit and support should be given to those who have pursued the island fellowship program and other solutions seeking a broader vision for the future. To all those involved, thank you for playing a role in this vital effort.
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Joined: 11 Oct 2015
Posts: 27

PostPosted: Sat Apr 22, 2017 8:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The island is in need of new energy and ideas and an Island Fellow will be a shot in the arm. Maine islands have experienced it and we can too! Funding for the Island Fellow needs to be in place by May 1st. So far the Office of Great Lakes, Island Airways, BIA, the Beaver Island Historical Society and some individuals are contributing, but we have not met our goal. This is a wonderful opportunity for our Island to move forward. If you are interested in contributing please contact Patrick McGinnity at the library, 448-2701, Kevin Boyle at 448-3189 or Pam Grassmick 448-2314. This is the time to put our money where our mouth is!
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