"Thousand Islands" of Canada and "Thousand Islands Lake" of China, both beautiful tourist attractions bearing identical names, joined hands across the ocean Sunday with the signing of a friendship and cooperation agreement.
The two world-renowned tourist destinations will share their resources as they try to draw more visitors while ensuring a sustainable environment.
Under the agreement, local tourism departments will meet regularly for mutual promotion of products and share information and experiences in managing and protecting their environment,
The agreement was signed by Frank Kinsella, mayor of Leeds and the Thousand Islands, Ontario, and Ling Zhifeng, mayor of Chun'an County, Zhejiang Province, where the "Thousand Islands Lake" is located.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper applauded the agreement, saying it "celebrates the many benefits of partnering at the community level between Canada and China, which enjoy a growing friendship that is resulting in burgeoning cultural and trade opportunities throughout our two nations."
In a message, he also expressed the belief that "tourism, cultural exchanges and numerous joint projects will result from this initiative and undoubtedly, both communities will realize new opportunities."
Chinese ambassador Lan Lijun, Canadian Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice, federal parliament member Gord Brown and provincial officials were present at the ceremony, which took place on a cruise boat on the scenic "Thousand Islands."
"It is very significant to build a kind of connection between the two major tourist attractions with the same name in our two countries," Lan said in a speech.
"Thanks to our joint efforts, we would be able to promote not only tourism and economic cooperation, but also mutual understanding and friendly exchanges between our two peoples, thus making contributions to the overall development of the relations between our two countries," the ambassador said.
Prentice praised the initiative as an important measure in deepening environmental cooperation between the two countries.
Both attractions are very important ecological sites for their countries and both governments are making all efforts to take good care of them, he said, adding the cooperation agreement will ensure a better management of these natural treasures.
He Guangwei, honorary chairman of China Tourism Association and former director of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), initiated the agreement a few years ago. He was granted the title of "honorary citizen of Leeds and Thousand Islands Canada," together with Ling at the ceremony. Frank Kinsella was named "honorary citizen" of Chun'an.
A Red Maple tree and a Ginkgo tree, as symbols of friendship between the two countries, were planted on the lakeside while Kinsella designated Sept. 13 of 2009 as "Chinese Friendship Day."
Sunday's agreement marked a milestone in tourism cooperation between the two countries as the two Thousand Islands make up the first pair of "China-Canada Friendship Tourist Attractions," said Shan Gangxin, director of CNTA's Toronto Office, which put forward the idea.
Several other tourist attractions in Canada and China are also working to build such partnerships, he told Xinhua.
Toronto's Central Island and the Phoenix Island of Qingdao in China's Shandong Province; Canada's Banff National Park and China's Huangshan Scenic Spot in Anhui province; Canada's Niagara Falls and the Terracott Warriors Museum of Shaanxi province, are hoping to enhance their cooperation through friendship agreements, he said.
Thousand Islands, a waterway between Ontario Lake and St. Lawrence, is an international playground in Canada-U.S. borders. There are 1,865 islands in the area, ranging from rocky shoals to several square kilometers in size. With its serene, crystal water and rich natural lives, the area has been designated as a United Nations biosphere reserve.
The Thousand Islands Lake in East China's Zhejiang province, with 1078 islands in all, is a young lake formed in 1959 as a result of the construction of Xin'anjiang Hydroelectric Power Station.
The largest forest park in China, the spot has 81 percent of its territory covered by forests. it boasts crystal clear water, verdurous mountains, beautiful natural landscape and excellent ecological environment. In 2008 alone, the place attracted 3 million visitors.
(Xinhua News Agency September 14, 2009)