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By Peter Huston

We haven’t had many “A” list celebrities come to Put-in-Bay (in a very long time). With the exception of Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, I really can’t even think of even one. Most of the current Hollywood stars or big time sport types don’t make their way here at all.

When I was growing up comedian Paul Lynde (originally from Mount Vernon Ohio) was my favorite star on Hollywood Squares TV show. He was the center square for many years. His acerbic whit and cutting satirical humor made me laugh out loud. You might be surprised to know that he had a direct connection to Put-in-Bay. As a child he was a camper at the summer choir camp here on the island. His child’s eye view hand painted map of Put-in-Bay is still on display at the Mount Vernon Historical Society. Later he worked for Chick Linker at the original “Boat House”. Very few will remember him anymore and I don’t think he ever came back once he was a star.

When I give tours I like to mention actress Katie Holmes who grew up in Toledo (she was married to Tom Cruise). I understand her parents come to the island from time to time, but that’s as close as we can get these days to Hollywood. I think that’s just fine. We don’t need to have top tier Hollywood Celebs to make us the “cool kids”, no sir!

We are so off the radar, heck even most of second and third tier celebrities that go to trade shows from our baby boomer past don’t visit either. If they did I bet most millennials’ would probably not even recognize them unless they watched “TV Land”!

Some people might still recognize “Seinfeld” characters. We had Larry Thomas, the Soup Nazi here a couple of times. His character might create a flicker on “the face or recognition” meter if he returned. Truth is that much of the stories I could tell about the movies, TV shows and “Stars” that came to Put-in-Bay won’t even register with anyone under 30.

In today’s social media driven world (I heard on a morning talk show) many “celebrity du jour” stars (I don’t even have a clue who they are) are getting paid 6 figures to be social media spokes people. I was thinking maybe if we could recruit one of those up and coming stars we could invite them to give it a go for us. Or better yet maybe we could make up our own “island stars” and have them start a “Celebrity” Twitter conversation about #PIB with @seakingjames, @mileybucyrus or @jayseapib!

Still, I’m not that optimistic we can get a star, so as a plan B I think what we need here is a big time Hollywood movie. We need to lure them to shoot here on the island. All we need is just one scene, and we can even tell them we’re really near Canada to make it seem more hip. I mean Cleveland has had a bunch of action movies like “Bat Man”, Mansfield had the “Shaw Shank Redemption”, and even Sandusky had the “Edge of Seventeen”.

We almost had a shot at island stardom last year with “Perry’s Luck”, the film that was slated to be shot about Oliver Hazard Perry and Battle of Lake Erie… but that fizzled too. So plan C would be to create our own Lake Erie Islands Film Commission (sounds snazzy enough). Let’s dazzle Hollywood with our old cars, unique locations and island charm. When you look at the resources here, we have great “period” buildings, tons of cool old cars, and some nearly deserted islands that would make amazing “sets”. How could they resist?

So summing up this story, no stars here yet, we need to create a buzz, so we can give Hollywood a reason to visit, and see what happens. We will probably survive just fine without them, but it’s worth a shot. Just ask Mansfield Ohio and Upper Sandusky about their success and the long-term residual benefits of “Shaw Shank”. Time to put on the Glitz #Putinbayloveshollywood !

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By Peter Huston

What will Put-in-Bay look like in 2030? Or perhaps a better way to think of this is “who do we want to be”? Currently Lake Erie Shores and Islands is our “brand” for the greater Erie and Ottawa County areas. Our local bed tax dollars go into helping to fund the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau, aka LESI. LESI’s mission is to promote our island and the “shores and island” region. Most importantly they are tasked with putting “heads in beds”, keeping our lodging partners busy.

As Put-in-Bay continues to grow our own “brand” we are now able to accommodate more over night guests than ever before. For years our island economy has thrived on “day trippers” but the long-term focus is trending towards extending our season and increasing the awareness of the Lake Erie region, especially the islands here in the western basin.

So with these two entwined missions in mind, LESI is embarking on research to help us to meet our islands goals. I don’t know if we have ever really put those “goals’ to paper, but it is an important concept. As islanders we often express our interest in certain types of visitors we want. We like business groups, sports tournaments, weddings, families and couples. We encourage adventure tourism and outdoor enthusiasts. We worry about young 20 some things that come only to test their alcohol limits, but welcome them back as 40 year olds reliving their past.

But really the bigger picture for us as a region is how to increase our success and do it in a way that makes us (and our visitors) happy to be here. This idea starts with what we envision our island should be. I know that corralling this idea is akin to herding cats. Some are excited to welcome all, others have very specific demographics that they find appealing.

LESI wants to better assist us in this thought process by shaping it’s organization so that it can help us to better achieve our own goals. Whether it is through strategic marketing or bricks and mortar investment, the long-term idea is to strengthen our business base through smart growth that we can sustain.

Right now sports marketing and organized activities like marathons, soccer, volleyball and softball tournaments are growing in popularity. These events don’t have to be charity oriented anymore, in fact many groups run tournament competitions and 5K runs as a business.

For Put-in-Bay, attracting groups that have a specific focus like sports, cars, or boating may have more long-term sustainability. The Journal of Sport and Tourism had a recent article by Hinch, Higham and Moyle called “Sports Tourism and Sustainable Destinations”.

“Destinations serve as the spatial context and reference point for this special issue. They are, in essence, the place where sport tourism is produced and consumed.1 Whether sport tourism development takes the form of sport events, active participation or sport heritage activities, it draws on local resources and forms part of the complex dynamic of community life” 2

So sports minded youth and adults utilizing local facilities, food and lodging on a regular basis could be a top choice. But,there are many options open to us. I bring this up because the Bass Islands are a great example of a “community foundation” for business growth. Let’s look at Mackinac Island for instance. When we visited them this winter we discovered that they had identified weddings as a growth industry. One business owner I spoke with had embraced this, and opened a formal wear rental shop. They had over 750 weddings last year!

This year’s Put-in-Bay Music Fest is taking a step in this direction by co-hosting a American Cornhole Association Cornhole Tournament. Sport, entertainment and other non-vocational hobbies like car and boat collecting can drive tourism very effectively. We have a great base in place. Could this be our future growth area?

In many ways these types of long-term solutions might be just be the perfect answer. Better targeting of these specific visitors may be part of the tasking we require of LESI in years to come. Perhaps our partnership with LESI will helps us to develop the resources and facilities required to compete. Let me know what you think.

1(Higham, 2005Higham, J. (Ed.). (2005)

2(Preuss, 2015Preuss, H. (2015). A framework for identifying the legacies of a mega sport event. Leisure Studies, 34(6), 643–664. doi: 10.1080/02614367.2014.994552[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®]; 

By Peter Huston

Up on the top of the ticket booth building at Fox’s Dock here in downtown Put-in-Bay is the Jet-Express Camera. Updated last year to be full HD ( high definition for broadcast use) the camera looks south east at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. On a clear day the camera captures a little of the Sandusky skyline and a glimpse of the tallest roller coaster at Cedar Point too.

 If you live in the Toledo area and get WTOL that camera shot is a regular “go to” shot for the WTOL weather team. You can find it at Jet Cam !

Recently, the WTOL camera feed was “discovered” by the national CBS Morning show staff and has been featured several times in just the past few weeks. I’m thinking that someone in the CBS New York control room is from Ohio! Not only has this been great to see, but I think there will be viewers all over the USA who will start to wonder where “Put-in-Bay, Ohio” is.

img_9118While this winter has not produced the quality ice that brings ice fisherman to the island yet, there is mystery and intrigue that surrounds what winter island life is all about. Back in early December Cleveland’s WVIZ “Ideastream” reporter Elizabeth Miller and PBS producer Margaret Thompson came to Put-in-Bay to do a story about island life.

 Their story “No Ferry, No Problem”! caught the ear of NPR and so the national NPR management have sent the team back to the island again as Miller explains it to do “interviews with Steve Poe (Put-in-Bay School Superintendent) and [Put-in-Bay] students, [Then] we’re planning to use Friday evening and Saturday for a story on culture/community on the island.

 In Miller’s earlier WVIZ story, island resident Caroline Conrad had a message for those who might take pity on folks stuck on an island all winter: “People shouldn’t feel sorry for the people that live here because we’re not bored.” Which I think perfectly captures the spirit of winter residents.

 Winter for islanders is special. Sometimes I wonder if people think we go into hobbit holes and hibernate. There is so much to do here during the winter and unless you just plain hate winter you will keep you plenty busy. Not only is it a great time to do home repairs and catch up with friends, almost daily there seems to be something going on. From aerobics and yoga at the Put-in-Bay Senior center, Wednesday Euchre at Tippers Restaurant, Friday darts at Topsy Turveys, Saturday night dinner at the Reel Bar, Sunday morning breakfast crepe from the Old Forge, to daily pizza home delivery from Blu Luna!

 And with the islands growth in recent years, construction crews are working 10-hour days to complete new projects before spring rolls around. And it is an islander tradition to drive around the island in the winter exploring, checking on construction progress, and looking for wildlife. It’s all part of the mystique of winter here on the Bass Islands.

So the next time you see the live camera shot from the top if Fox’s Dock, look for the cars going by and rest assured that there is life here. As one island resident stated; “In the winter when cars go by the house, you know who they are, where they’re going and when they’ll be back”!

By Peter Huston

Now that the holidays are past we can concentrate on what we enjoy, that peaceful quiet and “isolated splendor” that winter brings us here. But, the second season of Put-in-Bay starts with a ‘thank you’ first, then off to ice fishing. This is a note of deep thanks to all the people, still here on island and those that come here all season long that made 2016 possible. I like to think of it as the power of community.img_4526

Here in Put-in-Bay, that sense of community is felt all year long, but never more than right now as we begin to envision what will be ahead in 2017. You can see it in the turnout at our off-season events and gatherings (both on and off island), the enthusiasm we share with our island friends, and the reminder that the genuine warmth we have shared with those who visit here all season long was appreciated.

Last year was an amazing season. The weather, especially in the early months was so inviting, week after week, that it “moved” people to want to venture here, and to come back again. They came week after week and the net result was one of the best seasons we have had here on South Bass Island. The overnight lodging numbers were up, our businesses were busy, and the weather gods smiled on us more than once (love those sunny days in October). Thanks to the believers here, the many unsung hard workers and volunteers (you know who you are) that made so many others’ visit to Put-in-Bay memorable. Thank you!

A visit to Put-in-Bay is more than the sum of beautiful “Instagram’ pictures, “snap chat” moments and “Facebook’ posts. It’s what stays with us, that special collective something that reminds us later where we have been. It is really the “emotional memories” that will stay with us for a lifetime. That warm greeting you received as you board the ferry, the smile from a server when you get your coffee after a great meal, the funny stories that the island cave guides share with you, or learning a little island history from a ranger while taking in the view from atop Perry’s Victory. It’s all wrapped together in that intangible special sense of place that we provide.

There are lots of great places to visit, some more beautiful, some more awe inspiring, but none more emotionally memorable than right here in Put-in-Bay. I have been all over the United States and invariably conversations about where we live comes up. I am always amazed about the positive reactions and great stories I get in return, when I share that I live “on an island in Lake Erie, know as Put-in-Bay”.

For 2017, the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce will work to build on the successes we shared together in 2016. Dedicated chamber leadership, selfless hard work by friends, and support from our members, made this opportunity possible. We see endless possibilities for expanding upon this effort last year, to share more broadly and deeply that feeling of fun and pure joy that we get here.

In the coming year we will have more places to stay than ever before, we will have some new employee housing choices with affordable condos to buy for those ready to put down roots. We will have great customer services available, new business ventures that will amaze you, and wonderful first time events like the day long Put-in-Bay Music Festival Concert June 10th at Perry’s Victory.

Our mission will be to explore new ways to reach out to our visitors, expanding our efforts to take advantage of great opportunities that lie ahead. And even though we can’t predict the weather, we will be ready to provide that extra enthusiasm that makes a rainy day at the bay still as wonderful as the sunny “perfect” day.

That is the power of community, that is the intangible extra that we can share, that is the emotional memory that we call Put-in-Bay. So let it snow, bring on the ice, we will be waiting for you to return this spring for the best season yet.

By Peter Hustonimg_8253

Have you noticed how many 5 and 10k running races there are these days? They’re everywhere! They’ve proliferated and become a viable business for small entrepreneurial groups like the one Put-in-Bay School graduate Oliver Thwaite started, AllSportFun.com, that does race management and timing.

But running races and other sports competitions is just the tip of the iceberg. Large media driven groups like Battle Frog and NBC’s Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge are creating and promoting successful sports “destination” competitions. Using television to promote the event, these very popular sports events create local commerce and tourism through fan and competitor interest.

Regionally here in Northwest Ohio we have soccer, rugby, bicycling, volleyball and cornhole (yes cornhole) that have become moneymaking juggernauts. This benefits not just the organizers but the communities as well. Local “walks and runs” (which we have nearly a dozen of now in Put-in-Bay) were for many years mostly organized and promoted by non-profits like Susan G. Komen, Cleveland Clinic, and Stein Hospice for fundraisers. They are now losing market share and being out numbered by “for profit” organizers that bring other innovative events to local destinations like Put-in-Bay.

Groups of like-minded Millennial and Generation X sports enthusiasts have grown up running virtual companies that feature websites and regular activities that promote the destination. These small organizations stage multiple events yearly. Indoors and out. Their popular events, like “Battle at the Bay” volleyball not only brings players to Put-in-Bay (750 or so) but friends and fans that hang out, eat, shop and enjoy our local venues.

Large national sports marketing companies like Sports Force (http://www.the-sports-force.com/) have figured out that they can create the venues and become the host location for events. Locally they have teamed up with Cedar Faire (Cedar Points parent company) to buy the former Griffing Airport in Sandusky and turn it into a mega sports complex. Sports Force is building a large very “green’ venue that will feature baseball diamonds, football fields, food and merchandising.

This outdoor facility can potentially generate millions of visitors that will come to Sandusky to watch or play in a tournament, stay in a local hotel and go to Cedar Point, even Put-in-Bay. Erie County’s interest in this development is so keen that their commissioners went out of the way to help reduce the red tape to get this project sited and approved.

Here in Put-in-Bay we have great interest from many organizations and businesses both local and regional that want to stage their event here. When you look at the choices for local development, keeping open “green” spaces available for events and sports related tournaments looks pretty appealing.

We have precious few green spaces here on South Bass, but there are still many weekends open to entice creative event planners to visit. Thankfully Island Resorts, Put-in-Bay Township Port Authority, Put-in-Bay Township Park District and the National Park Service see the long-term potential of using their green assets encourage and promote current and future events. It really is a “win-win” for everyone.

By Peter Huston

butlermodelIt’s September and the number of golf carts going by is already waning. 5 months, tops is all we have to make a living here in Put-in-Bay. The laughter and good times go by our window hourly all summer. This summer the number of laughing visitor “woowoos “ has been way up.

It’s not a scientific measure of fun, but it seems to be a great barometer for the enjoyment index which appears to be up. Certainly golf carts are the most desirable mode of transportation while here and there must be something that brings out the child like emotional responses that turns into ‘woowoo”. I love the joy that this represents as visitors enjoy their time here.

Resort cycle economics as geographers (http://geographyfieldwork.com/ButlerModel.htm) call it, is a concept that defines our island economy. This year’s many many sunny weekends allowed us to achieve a high level of “woowoo” success. The Butler Model for tourism charts the rise of a destination based on the increase in number of tourists over time.

There are 5 steps in this cycle: Discovery, growth and development, success, stagnation/problems rejuvenation or failure. According to the Barcelona Field Studies Centre this cycle can repeat many times over the history of a resort or just once and end with complete failure. Places like Euclid Beach, Geneva By the Lake, Ocean City (NJ), and Nantasket Beach (MA) are examples of resorts that peaked in a different social and technological era.

A case can be made that Put-in-Bay has survived at least two of these cycles as we head into the success phase of the third cycle. I think the 1870’s represented the start of the first cycle. The increase in grape growing brought more people here to experience the wine and the island experience. That growth and success peaked just before prohibition. The Volstead Act caused a severe downturn in the economy that did not rebound until the 1960’s.

During the 60’s an “organic’ rejuvenation began to take place. Land was very cheap and families and fisherman started to buy up cottages and land. Slowly the growth of this “poor mans” Nantucket created interest in a second wave of summer tourism. This successful rediscovery of the islands led to the peak of the lassies faire 70’s that saw Put-in-Bay grow into a hip albeit low key summer hangout.

At any point in this process Put-in-Bay could have failed and other destinations might have successfully prospered. Places like Euclid Beach, Geneva on the Lake just did not have the elements needed to spur rejuvenation during this era and today they are B&W photo memories of their heyday.

It could be argued that the two things that changed the growth and success of Put-in-Bay included the high speed late night ferry and golf carts. The overall expansion of ferry service allowed for sustainable growth of businesses and support services. The introduction of the golf cart provided an economical transportation investment alternative and affordable way to see the island in a casual manor.

Today, as thousands of visitors go by on a cart enjoying the island experience, we seem to be approaching another peak in the resort cycle. There is a limit to how many people on a busy day can experience that euphoric “woohoo’ day. Not enough golf carts, parking spots and short term lodging places to support the maximum capacity on peak days and not enough people coming on the off peak days to sustain the investment to finance that growth.

In essence we are experiencing great success which is bringing more people here now than ever before and we need to figure out how to be able to scale up the services, shopping and lodging on these peak days without over investing. As we get to the next level in the resort cycle we need to keep those euphoric “woowoos” loud and plentiful. It’s key to the islands continued success.

imagesBy Peter Huston

On July 7th, a beautiful summer day last month, politicians, scientists and a gaggle of reporters converged on OSU’s Stone Lab for the now annual “Algal Bloom Update”. Just days before the island press conference, a huge algal bloom had occurred off the east cost of Florida, enveloping the St Lucie River near Stuart Florida. If you missed it in the national news (covered by just about every major news outlet), check out the July 2nd NY Times story “Reeking, oozing algae closes south Florida beaches”.

The Florida bloom was so large that it could be seen from outer space. This man made, State of Florida disaster hit the eastern beaches just before the July 4th weekend creating havoc and lost revenue for the beach communities affected. Thought provoking visual evidence of what we need to avoid here in the Erie Islands where most of our livelihoods are connected to tourism.

The “good” news here in Ohio and specifically Put-in-Bay about our own chances of an algal bloom was reported later that Thursday in an AP wire story “Potentially toxic algae is expected to form again this summer in western Lake Erie but should be considerably less severe than the blooms that blanketed the lake and threatened drinking water supplies the previous two years.”

This is certain to be a topic of conversation at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and a boon to Florida governor Rick Scott where a combination of regulations and state flood water management actions led to their current problem. Scott, who declared an Algal Bloom “State of Emergency”, implored President Obama to do the same to enable Florida to access Federal funds for remediation. Short term clean up is their first priority in Florida, but long term solutions are what we are focusing on here in Ohio and the Great Lakes when the 12th Annual Great Lakes Restoration “Healing our Waters’ conference convenes at Cedar Point September 20-22.

For Ohio and the Lake Erie Islands, keeping our water clean and reducing run off that cause these blooms is a top priority. Many of the Great Lake States are taking notice and enacting more rigid legislation to curb or reduce the potential of a Florida like bloom.

There is a coalition of environmental groups that feels that the measures proposed so far by Michigan, Ohio and federal agencies are inadequate and should require farms to sharply curtail runoff of manure and other fertilizers. “We cannot just cross our fingers and hope for dry weather to ensure a healthy Lake Erie,” the groups said. “We strongly urge the U.S. and Canadian governments to move quickly to create effective, real world plans for reducing agricultural pollution.”

While many people come to Put-in-Bay to have swimming parties at our local pool bars, there is a significant number that want to access on our local beaches. In recent “travel and tourism” focus group research done by Lake Erie Shores and Islands many of the focus group members still recall the “Burning Cuyahoga” images of 1969 almost 50 years ago.

That type of lingering imagery may plague eastern Florida for years and it is why understanding our own ecosystem priorities in the western basin of Lake Erie is so important. We have two public “beaches” on South Bass, the small neatly groomed and landscaped (thank you garden club) beach at the end of Delaware Avenue and the larger pebble beach at the South Bass Island State Park.

Certain types of normal healthy algae will come into these beaches as the water warms every summer. These “good” algae are part of the lake ecosystem and necessary for fish and the related natural aquaculture. The toxic algal blooms are a result of the right conditions occurring when excess nitrogen runoff mingles with the lake water micro-organisms . According to Richard Stumph of NOAA “a bloom of mild to moderate size is likely to show up late this month, reach its peak size in August and possibly linger into October”
We need to be able to promote our island, maintain clean water to drink and ensure continued access to our local beaches. Our livelihood and long-term viability as a destination is built on the success of groups like Heal our Waters to promote solutions for Lake Erie so visitors can “reach our beaches” for years to come,

 

PIBIO- Experiential Destination Marketing, and the ‘Disneyfication” of our new Island visitors

By Peter Huston

One day in early April a lady called me on the phone to ask what the cost of admission to the island was (seriously!), and then a few days later a man and his family stood in front of the Put-in-Bay Chamber Office looking at a map discussing what was open that day on the island. They asked what rides (they meant attractions) were open. I explained about how the island was slowly opening up week by week and recited to them a list of what they could do that quiet Tuesday, The father exclaimed that it was “a rip off, {since] nothing is open”. I hate to hear people’s disappointment, but we are not Disneyland. However, we may start to be confused with a heightened expectation of an “experiential destination experience”.

According to a July 2000 article in Spin Magazine a young NY marketing executive named Steve Riffkind had begun selling the idea of “strategic experiential tourism” even if he did not call it that. He was getting fees of upwards of a million dollars to advise businesses on how to create a destination experience. He saw that the use of signage to control people (coming to the ball park) and keep them from thinking about the real issues. …using “expressway” signs on the routes entering and leaving the ballpark (Yankee Stadium) area, buying up advertising signs, … was a revolutionary, cost-effective approach to marketing and promotion.

In 2004 when the first plans for the “new” New York Yankee’s Stadium were being unveiled few people had heard of the concept of “Strategic tourism planning for sustainable destinations and sites”. This was a new idea that posed the notion that a stadium was not just an athletic venue, but a tourist destination. Yankee Stadium was among the very first “planned” experiential marketing campaigns at a sports venue that utilized this approach to design a complete fan experience.

According to surveys this idea led to a broader fan experience, Fans attending a game at the new ball field said that felt like they were in familiar territory from the time they stepped off the subway or parked their car. We have started to do this with gateway signage on Route 53. The Miller Boat Line is working on upgrading their entry point to the island with signage and directional information. And plans are in place to add more waypoint signage on the island in the coming years augmenting the first time visitor experience.

Walt Disney was probably one of the earliest innovators of this concept when he built Walt Disney World in Florida in the late 60’s. He had planned ahead buying up land around the park site to ensure that the entire visitor experience at the park was under his company’s control. Today, everyone who goes to Disneyland or Disneyworld expects to have that full “Disney” experience regardless of the time of year or day of week.

It is no surprise that a Disney consulting group sells this experience now to companies, sports teams, amusement parks, even art museums like “the new Whitney Museum… New York City’s newest world-class cultural destination” according to the NY Times. These higher risk destination ventures are tapping into this concept. Experiential destination marketing of new venues has spread across the country from Kansas City to Omaha, Seattle to Providence.

Our visitors to Put-in-Bay are much more savvy travelers than ten years ago and they are bound to have experienced these emersion style visitor experiences. That unique experience may lead them to expect more and more for their vacation dollars.

There is however a fine balance between creating a positive and unique visitor experience and embracing the complete “Disneyfication” of Put-in-bay, What we want is for our visitors to enjoy their island experience without creating expectations that are beyond what we can deliver. What makes us unique is our collective individual approach that celebrates each individual’s path to a happy island experience without becoming a blurred reality that causes visitors to think we are Disneyworld. So keep celebrating “Island Style”.

By Peter Huston

Everyday here on Put-in-Bay, or where ever you may be, you can get nearly immediate updates on construction projects, things for sale, new babies on the way, and birthdays. Facebook has become an essential way for our community to stay in touch virtually. We can post yard sales, births, deaths, and church potlucks, places we visited, and fund raisers.

I have seen news travel from one end of the island to the other so quickly that it surprised the newsmakers! Just ask the pilot of the plane that landed off the stern of the Miller Ferry a few years ago!

But Facebook is really a high tech information tool that requires time out of our day and consistent effort to stay “involved”. Some facebookers, like me, casually read and follow the updates but rarely comment. Others play games and find constant entertainment just a click away. Still others remain connected all the time and seem to be able to respond to a comment or post in a moments notice.

A few years back the Deputy CIA Director, Christopher Sartinsky, stated in a congressional testimony “After years of secretly monitoring the public, we were astounded so many people would willingly publicize where they live, their religious and political views, an alphabetized list of all their friends, personal emails addresses, phone numbers, hundreds of photos of themselves, and even status updates about what they were doing moment to moment. It is truly a dream come true for the CIA.”

We all desire positive re-enforcement, and the “like” and “emoticons” that are used on Facebook help us to feel better about what we have posted or a comment we may leave. It also allows us to foster interaction and be a part of a conversation that we might not have known about without Facebook.

Alas, as convenient and immediate as Facebook can be I think there is still a need for our “no” tech system. This time tested system has provided us with up to date information for decades with little or no government oversight and provides us with the human interaction we cherish as well.

I am talking about the hubs of our island, the Post Office, General Store and Ferry docks. They are still the most dependable way to find out what’s going on. Just head to our post office in the morning, lunch or just before closing time and you can not only can find out fascinating things. But the mere fact that you are a regular at one of those intervals means that there is a good chance you share a few of the same personality traits with those you see there. It is a great place to “friend” someone.

Then there is the ferry dock. Some days I may see 30 or more people I know in a matter of minutes. On Facebook I might “view” more in a shorter time, but I won’t know if they are here on the island or on a trip somewhere. Human interaction is the best way to not only “friend” some one, but a great way to keep the conversation going.

Recently, reports about the time our brains are dedicating to daily interaction with social media is detracting from our ability to maintain conversations and concentrate. I find that when we are traveling on the ferry, sitting in the cabin often becomes a “no phone call” zone. It is a great time for getting essential updates and updating others on our likes and dislikes.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that our new era of communication can now provide a bridge between the many layers of technology and human interaction, except when we tune out and stare at our phones. One day I left home in a hurry and forgot my phone. Amazingly, I got onboard the ferry engaged in conversation and did not even miss my phone until I was disembarking. In fact I made it through the entire day without it. In years to come I know we will further integrate technology and community. We just have to remember back to the early days of “AOL” to realize the next big thing is just a “friend” away.

PIBIO “Our Isolated Splendor”  by Peter Huston

Keep an eye out for the US Army Corp of Engineers. It just about that time again for a review on whether to build a permanent bridge across to South Bass again. We have joked in the past about the tunnel, (for you tunnel permit holders, please, please keep that to yourselves). Just remember what happened to Grosse Ile when they built that toll bridge…

As spring comes upon usIMG_6530, and before the floodgates of visitors opens, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on just how lucky we are to live in this bucolic tranquil isolated community. The Bass Islands are a place where you can enjoy the quiet, walk down the middle of the road quietly, away from the craziness that could be just a bridge away.

Our future may well include a bridge to the mainland. Not a “fictitious” tunnel, but a bridge like Grosse Isle has that creates a permanent year round connection to the mainland. Our county and state officials see the island commerce and want to leverage that success. A proposal to build a toll bridge bubbles to the surface every few years and it is circulating again. The idea is not new and the obstacles to building it might be difficult to overcome. But chances are good that 20 years from now you will drive to Put-in-Bay.

In the 1960’s an entrepreneur floated an idea of a monorail. I am not making this up. With the Disney World monorail creating such a tourism buzz in Florida, thiimagess adventurous businessperson saw the potential for building the same type of attraction to Put-in-Bay from Catawba Island.

He even proposed how this monorail would be able to bring supplies, allow island businesses to become light industrial manufacturers and attract tourists year round. That idea captured the fancy of many and ignited the idea that a toll bridge, even one with a drawbridge for freighter passage, would allow the county and or private entity to capitalize on the destination tourism we enjoy.

Island life is something to treasure, and it has captured the imagination of poets and musicians for centuries. If you want to get a sense of what that means for the Bass Islands you need to go to Amazon.com and get a copy of Robert Dodge’s 1975 book “Isolated Splendor”. Dodge allows you to savor the history of the island, the joys of our islands year round community and the pleasures of being unique.

For decades islanders have enjoyed the spoils of isolation. No worries about seasonal sickness, or worries about mainland politics. With our own water filtration plant and public management of utilities and transportation we control our own economy. Our elections are among friends that all know each other and realize that sooner or later everyone needs to be involved in running the island. We are the village raising the child!

While the idea of a bridge may on the surface sound attractive, going to the movies or shopping on the mainland whenever you want, what we give up is far greater. And the loss of island life, culture and the mystique of separation by choice will be gone forever. Just ask someone from Grosse Ile.