Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates celebrate economic impact and innovation

The newly re-elected MICA board are from back, left, Peter Ford and Matthew Redmond, and front, left, Mary Dantouze, Michelle Campbell (on zoom), Maja Mielonen. photo by Maureen Strickland

by Maureen Strickland

MINDEMOYA—It was a chilly Friday evening on June 10 at Maja’s Garden in Mindemoya but the energy and announcements at the 2022 Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates annual general meeting were electric.

The board of Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) and a handful of members gathered to review the past year and hear about future initiatives.

MICA, a not for profit organization, has been actively promoting, advocating for and building infrastructure for cycling on Manitoulin Island since 2010.

Their work directly injects money into the local economy in the tourism shoulder seasons through the annual Passage Ride and Alvar Cycling Tours.

The Passage Ride is organized and run entirely by volunteers and is MICA’s main fundraising event. A portion of the registration fees are used by MICA to kickstart other programs they develop but the bulk of the money goes into the local economy.

This year, MICA did an analysis of the recent Passage Ride, held June 4 and 5, through an on-line survey with the cyclists.

One question asked was, “How much did you spend on this trip including registration, travel, food and other related expenses per person?”

The majority of cyclists spent over $350 per person, reported board member Matthew Redmond. Mr. Redmond crunched the numbers and a conservative estimate of the total money spent by all the cyclists is $84,000. 

This is money typically spent in local hotels, restaurants and shops.

President of MICA, Maja Mielonen gave a shout out to Mr. Redmond and Michelle Campbell, the younger members of the board.   They have brought technical savvy to the organization so MICA can do surveys like this and track the impact of their promotional efforts said Ms. Mielonen.

Guest speaker, Shannon McMullan, spoke about the importance of partnering with MICA for her Spring Bay-based business, Perivale Gallery.

Ms. McMullan has run a bicycle friendly business since 2009, letting cyclists swim, get fresh drinking water and picnic on the Perivale Gallery property.

Perivale Gallery won the 2022 Ontario by Bike, Bicycle Friendly Business Award for all of Northern Ontario. Ms. McMullan opens the gallery in the shoulder season for cyclists and says the increased number of cyclists in early spring and late fall, “benefits business on the island when they need it.”

The AGM continued with updates on the e-bike share program. The launch is delayed due to supply chain issues but Ms. Mielonen is confident that the e-bike stations in South Bay Mouth, Manitowaning, Little Current, Kagawong, Gore Bay, Providence Bay and Mindemoya will be running by the end of the summer at the latest.

Anyone will be able to rent the e-bikes using an app on their smartphone. “The e-bikes are designed for micro-mobility and to connect our communities,” said Ms. Mielonen, adding, “they are for everyone, local people, people without cars and for tourists.”

Another highlight of the AGM that speaks to the depth of the work done by MICA in promoting Manitoulin Island as a cycling destination is the announcement that MICA has partnered with an international tour organization to have Manitoulin be a part of larger Canadian circle tours.

MICA will be hosting a four day e-bike tour with an international group in the coming weeks. The cyclists will tour Manitoulin for three days and on the final day, in partnership with Wiikwemikoong tourism, they will have an opportunity to learn more about indigenous culture.

Ms. Mielonen says this tour will hopefully be the first of many.

The meeting wrapped up with the election of board members. Ms. Mielonen and board secretary, Peter Ford, have been on the board of MICA since 2011. Matthew Redmond and Michelle Campbell have one year left in their terms. Mary Dantouze and Linda Belton were re-elected for new two-year terms.

Ms. Mielonen thanked all the volunteers, including current and past board members. MICA is “made up of volunteers who take small jobs and do them well,” said Ms. Mielonen, volunteers like Guy Nielen, who is leading the first of many Alvar Tours this week, Gary Fuhrman who mails out the 6th edition of the MICA map and Mary Dantouze who writes the quarterly newsletter.

These are just a few of the volunteers who make MICA the success it is.

The six member board and active volunteer members will “roll on”, said Ms. Mielonen to end the meeting.

It might be more like full steam ahead.