Neil Carleton 2 by Neil Carleton

They shared a wealth of expertise, and they spoke with passion.  Their messages were about the health and economic benefits of active transportation in communities that are bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Nearly sixty people from across our region, and around the province, arrived in Almonte last week for the first annual Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit (EOATS).  The Ron Caron Auditorium at the Almonte Old Town Hall was the launching pad for this outstanding event on May 29 and 30.

During the day and a half Summit, the presentations and resulting dialogue covered a lot of territory.  This included:

  • walking and biking trails as signature tourism attractions;
  • benefits of a walk friendly community for residents & local businesses;
  • naturalized areas with a sense of place;
  • implementing a Complete Streets policy;
  • debunking risk management myths.
The Almonte Old Town Hall was the site for the first Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit on May 29 and 30.  Beside the river was a natural place to enjoy lunch.
The Almonte Old Town Hall was the site for the first Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit on May 29 and 30. Beside the river was a natural place to enjoy lunch.

There was plenty of ‘how to’ information and examples in the mix.  This ranged from creating a signature route to planning-designing-maintaining naturalized trails for a varied user base.

Along with a keynote presentation and eight breakout sessions with other experts, the Summit featured a creative opportunity for registrants to head down Almonte streets for a walkability audit.   As a powerful tool for change, it’s used to identify areas of concern for walkers related to safety, access, comfort, and convenience.  Anyone returning from a walkability audit will never look at streets the same way again.

Summit participants were charmed by the heritage core and river corridor of our community.  They were impressed too by the River Walk and the upcoming events in June that were posted for Bicycle Month.  Their encouragement to build on these successes included a rail trail to connect with other destinations.  They spoke of the significant potential here in the valley for partnership building with other municipalities and organizations.

There was much forward thinking on both days of the Summit about supporting healthy living through active transportation.  This is of particular interest to Mississippi Mills as both have been identified as important economic drivers in our town’s strategic plan for economic development.  Mississippi Mills was represented at the Summit by Councilors John Edwards, Shaun McLaughlin, and Paul Watters; Chief Administrative Officer Diane Smithson; Director of Roads & Public Works Troy Dunlop;  Planner Stephen Stirling; Recreation Coordinator Calvin Murphy; and Community Economic & Cultural Coordinator Tiffany MacLaren.

A collaborative spirit was evident in the question and answer sessions, during nutrition breaks, and over lunch outside beside the river.  This continued during Thursday evening’s ‘Taste of the Town’ opportunities where attendees could experience local cuisine across Mississippi Mills.

Before heading for home on Friday, participants were happy to talk about their Summit experience.  After two days of sharing to support healthy living through active transportation, their comments were both reflective and action focused.  Five days later I still hear one of those enthusiastic voices.  “Embrace it.  It’s for 8 to 80.”  Others spoke about the warm hospitality of our community, and the inspired collaboration that the Summit generated.

On Thursday before the afternoon sessions, representatives of eight municipalities (Brockville, Lanark Highlands, Mattawa, Mississippi Mills, North Grenville, Ottawa, Perth, Renfrew) posed at the start line for the Mayor’s Slow Bike Race. 
On Thursday before the afternoon sessions, representatives of eight municipalities (Brockville, Lanark Highlands, Mattawa, Mississippi Mills, North Grenville, Ottawa, Perth, Renfrew) posed at the start line for the Mayor’s Slow Bike Race.
Ottawa Councillor David Chernushenko (left), winner of the Mayor’s Slow Bike Race, received the trophy and a Bicycle Month t-shirt from Jeff Mills of the Mills Community Support Corporation.
Ottawa Councillor David Chernushenko (left), winner of the Mayor’s Slow Bike Race, received the trophy and a Bicycle Month t-shirt from Jeff Mills of the Mills Community Support Corporation.

The first Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit was hosted by a network of partners with shared interests in the importance of healthy communities.  Well done team.

Canada Walks

http://www.canadawalks.ca/

Bicycle Month

https://www.facebook.com/mmbicyclemonthpage

Lanark County

http://www.lanarkcounty.ca/

Lanark, Leeds & Grenville Healthy Communities Partnership

http://www.healthyllg.org/

Mills Community Support Corporation

https://www.facebook.com/MillsCommunitySupport

Ontario By Bike

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ontario-By-Bike/229633693760203

Renfrew County

http://www.countyofrenfrew.on.ca/

Renfrew County Physical Activities Network

http://www.physicalactivitynetwork.ca/

Share the Road

http://www.sharetheroad.ca/

Town of Mississippi Mills

http://www.mississippimills.ca/en/