By Rachel Stark 
BELLEVILLE – Belleville’s first-ever cultural summit was held at Maranatha Church on Tuesday.
The event focused on the progress of a 10-year cultural plan for the region that has a goal of promoting existing culture and creating an environment where culture can thrive.
The summit included a presentation by Andrew Redden, Hastings County’s economic development manager. He explained the cultural plan and the progress that had led to the summit. “The trails, the outdoor recreation, the landscape of our area, the provincial parks – all of that is part of culture in the town of Belleville and Quinte West,” Redden said.
The highlight of the summit was the launch of a new online cultural portal  for the area. The main feature of the website (culturalportal.ca) is a cultural asset map – a map showing the location of culture-related sites in the region. It also includes a community bulletin board and a regional events calendar.
“It’s a place where promotion and cross-promotion could occur, a place where discussions could be made, and also just a place where you can understand what’s happening in your community,” said Alida Stevenson of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, who helped create the site.
Altogether 755 cultural assets within the Hastings County and Quinte West area were chosen for the map. These “assets” were broken down into festivals and events, spaces and facilities, community organizations, cultural heritage and natural heritage – the last category having the most entries. The interactive map not only supplies the location of the organizations, but also contact information, official websites and event information.
Those involved with the Hastings County and Quinte Region cultural plan contacted the cultural services department of the town of Richmond Hill , Ont., for inspiration on how to approach the cultural summit. Richmond Hill’s cultural-services co-ordinator, Gillian Hards, and manager of cultural services, Karin Ash, talked about the town’s 10-year cultural plan. That plan, launched in 2011, includes an annual cultural summit about the progress Richmond Hill makes each year.
“When you have culture within the community, you give the opportunities for people to express themselves and to share and connect. And I think that’s one of the real benefits of cultural planning,” Hards said.
Richmond Hill hopes that the cultural plan will help create a community that will attract creative entrepreneurs, she said.
Representatives of Quinte West and Hastings County said they plan to hold a cultural summit in this area annually.
The community is encouraged to explore the new cultural portal and contribute to the site.