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Communities in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are struggling to deal with a growing influx of tourists visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
“Munising is no longer the U.P.’s best kept secret,” Mayor Rod DesJardins told The Mining Journal of Marquette, “It’s become a premier vacation destination, not just in Michigan but throughout the Midwest.”
Crowds who visit the small coastal communities of Grand Marais and Munising on their way to the lakeshore have created shortages in hotel rooms and camping sites and have caused traffic, transportation and parking concerns, officials said. They’ve also overwhelmed local restaurants, with some being forced to stop taking orders hours before closing, while others have run out of food.
About 723,000 people visited the lakeshore in Alger County in 2015, spending about $30.6 million in surrounding cities and towns, according to a National Park Service report released in April. That’s up from 561,104 visitors in 2011.
To deal with the tourists, officials with the city of Munising, members of the National Park Service and other entities in Alger County created five groups in October to address issues such as seasonal employment and business opportunities, seasonal housing, public infrastructure, quality of life and park congestion. Where to put all those people is one of the biggest challenges.
“We still have a significant shortage in rental properties for all income ranges as well as a critical shortage in seasonal rentals and vacation rentals,” DesJardins said.
Kathy Reynolds, executive director of the Alger County Chamber of Commerce, said the increase in tourists has led to a worker shortage and made it hard at times to find a hotel room.
“Certain times during the summer, we’re at 100 percent occupancy here. That’s not uncommon during our busy season,” Reynolds said.
Laura Rotegard, superintendent of Pictured Rocks, said her committee is working on a safety video for next year to address water safety concerns. The committee also created a handout being distributed to boaters and kayakers that’s aimed at improving education of Lake Superior’s waters.
Reynolds said those involved with the committees also want to make sure the area keeps its small-town feel.
“That’s why people are coming here … and we want to keep that feeling as much as we can,” she said.
This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.