Time for the Sleeping Bear Dunes to step it up?

Traverse City Record-Eagle writer Bill O’Brien asks the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to Shed the 60s mindset. He notes that although the region’s tourism industry is bearing up well under tough times, Lakeshore visitor numbers have dropped two years in a row and are at the lowest level in 20 years.

Those who’ve been around long enough remember that locals were sold on the idea of a national park in northwest Michigan because it would be an economic engine for businesses in and around the lakeshore. It also would be a world-class attraction right in our backyard that would be around for our children’s children to enjoy.

But on both counts, the feds haven’t lived up to their end of the deal. Instead of a primary attraction, the lakeshore evolved into almost an afterthought in the region’s tourism scene — something to do when you’ve done everything else. A national park established in the 1960s is still operated like it’s the ’60s, with little if any local and regional promotion of the lakeshore, or northwest Michigan in general.

Read the rest at the Record-Eagle and share your thoughts in the comments below.

The photo is Sleeping Bear Dunes by SNiedzwiecki. You can check out many more in the slideshow of Sleeping Bear Dunes photos from the Leelanau.com group on Flickr – as you can see, it’s pretty darned marketable!



2 replies
  1. Jim Sorbie
    Jim Sorbie says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with this article.

    I don’t think you can judge the impact on the park based on visitors alone. I also wonder how anyone could possibly get an accurate count in any case. The author ignores how many people may live here because of the park. Without the park as an attraction I may not have moved here.

    I’d also suggest a visit to Silver Lake State park for a comparison of differing management and exploitation philosophies. Just spend a morning watching 4WD’s lined up for a shot at tearing around the dunes and you have a vision of a fully advertised and exploited park. No Thanks!

    The other alternative is a completely privatized shoreline a la Big Glen Lake or Lake Leelanau where only landowners have significant access. No Thanks again! I’ll stand by the park 10 times out of 10.

  2. Cher Fettes
    Cher Fettes says:

    I have to agree with Mr Sorbie.
    There is no practical way to count visitors to the park. It is not mandatory that they check in. You can visit the park in multiple locations, there are no entries or exits. Even the number of permits issued are not a valid count, many people have lifetime passes.

    It’s easy to see increases by the volume of traffic, crowds wherever you go. The pulished numbers of visitors are always adjusted upwards, to account for the fall season.

    Who needs or wants crowds?

    The purpose of this National Lakeshore is not to generate income, not to brings droves of people, but to preserve and protect the unique landscape only found here.


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