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GLIN==> Popular Great Lakes Website Launches New Site

Biodiversity Porject Great Lakes Town Hall Logo

PRESS RELEASE                                         Contact:          Jennifer Browning

For Immediate Release                                                         Biodiversity Project  

                                                                                                (773) 496-4020



Popular Great Lakes Website Launches New Site

www.greatlakestownhall.org adds new look, new features


CHICAGO, Ill. (February 18, 2009) The Great Lakes Town Hall (www.greatlakestownhall.org), a program of Biodiversity Project, has seen extraordinary growth since its inception in 2005 with nearly 100,000 visitors in 2008. The Town Hall  recently launched a new site to respond to the increase in traffic with a new look and new features. The Great Lakes Town Hall provides a virtual space for Great Lakes residents in eight states and two provinces to share stories, debate issues and create an online community dedicated to the Great Lakes.


Biodiversity Project’s Executive Director, Jennifer Browning, says, “While some think the Internet decreases meaningful interactions, we’ve found that this on-line community actually makes users feel more connected to folks who at some level share  views, thoughts or feelings – even if they don’t always agree!” The multiple layers of the online forum allow for users to share opinions in Great Lakes polls, discuss issues on the Community Bulletin, and to read and respond to essays written by Great Lakes residents. Guest writers have included David Ullrich, Executive Director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, as well as Tom Henry, environmental reporter for the Toledo Blade.


After surveying users on the site, Biodiversity Project brought on board Chicago-based Web designer and developer Matt Mayes and graphic designer Traci Jendo to help translate the Town Hall dreams into reality. New features include user profiles and a photo gallery, as well as sections featuring grassroots organizations and high-profile individuals. These improvements provide new opportunities for the dialogue and community participation that are the basis for the site’s success and are essential to cultivating a community that cares about Great Lakes culture and the health of the Lakes.


Browning says, “What makes it different from our traditional understanding of community is that it is both separated – and united – by some of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world.” Great Lakes Town Hall users hail from Toronto, Ontario, and Erie, Penn., to Chicago, Ill., and Duluth, Minn.  Other registered users come from as far away as Washington D.C., Georgia, Nebraska and Colorado.


Showcasing nearly 300 Great Lakes images, the website is a visual reminder of the importance of protecting the coastlines and wildlife of the Great Lakes, as well as recreational opportunities, cultural traditions and tourism industry.


Browning says, “In the next five years, we would like to see the GLTH become a resource for politicians, as well as an avenue through which users can ‘rally the troops’ in their area to address specific issues.” Recent discussions on the Town Hall include the debate over Great Lakes wind farms and the upcoming bi-national meeting between President Obama and Canada’s Prime Minister, Steven Harper.


“When we see that,” says Browning, “there is no greater sense of accomplishment. It means that we are achieving exactly what we set out to do – to get people talking.” And with the new look and new features, the Great Lakes Town Hall is certain to attract new voices in Great Lakes conversation. See the new site at www.greatlakestownhall.org