“At first I wasn't sure I belonged,” said Robin Jenkinson, reflecting on the invitation she received from a good friend to participate on a speaker panel at the 2023 RIEP Forum, held in late April on Gabriola Island.
“But the Forum brought so many brilliant people together in one place! At the end, I realized that most of the participants and I were completely aligned in our values and goals for a more connected and sustainable world. ”
For RIEP, convening with the organization’s rural islands community once again was critical to generate new economic opportunities, especially post-pandemic. With the return to the in-person Forum, it seemed to click.
It certainly seemed to click for Robin in particular, an environment educator and active transportation advocate based on Salt Spring Island. “Physically visiting The Haven and zipping around Gabriola on my ebike helped forge lots of new connections. Not only was I able to visit the Indigenous petroglyphs, their community gardens and trail systems, at the Forum I got to know people from different islands who are working on the same kinds of projects.”
As Outreach Director for Island Pathways, Robin works to build safer walking and bicycle paths across Salt Spring Island. She came away from the Forum with a new sense of possibility for her community by learning about what’s happening on other islands.
“Many of the participants, and in particular members of the RIEP team, expanded my perspective about cycle paths—that they’re not only for individuals or tourists to get around. They shared a vision for zero-carbon cargo bike movement of goods, and cutting down on ferry line-ups and road congestion.”
Robin built on her ‘unconference conference’ experience with another island visit that served to remind her of an important tenet for remote communities: islands demand innovation. “After the Forum, I followed up on an invitation from one of my new connections to visit the trails on Hornby Island. Not only did this lead to new friendships, but also the discovery of transportation innovations, like the electric wheelbarrow they’d invented to move and compact gravel as their community volunteers built their island trails!”
Both Robin and Island Pathways joined RIEP soon after the 2023 Forum. She looks forward to further collaboration with active transportation colleagues across the rural islands network—to share knowledge, ideas, and momentum.
“...the Forum brought so many brilliant people together in one place...I realized that most of the participants and I were completely aligned in our values and goals for a more connected and sustainable world.” - Robin Jenkinson, Outreach Director - Island Pathways