2016-10-06 / Outdoors

Lakeshore attendance continues to soar; nears annual record

September continued 2016 trend
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

The slogan for this year’s celebration of the National Park Service centennial was “find your park.” It appears a lot of people have, and that park is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Visitation figures for September crushed the previous record set in September 2011, the month after “Good Morning America” named the Lakeshore the most “Beautiful Place” in America.

With three months remaining in 2016, visitation at the park is at 1,525,357, only 10,000 shy of the all-time record of 1,535,633 set last year.

“It was a busy September,” confirmed Tom Ulrich, deputy superintendent at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. “It didn’t even let up until this past week.”

According to National Park figures, 159,153 people visited Sleeping Bear last month, up about 11 percent from the same month last year and 5.2 percent higher than the previous record of 150,984.

“That was the month after we were named the most Beautiful Place in America,” Ulrich said.

September 2016 marked the fifth-straight month of record visitation at the park and the eighth month in nine this year to set a record.

“We have had record turnout going back to December 2015,” Ulrich said.

The New Year started out with a bang with a record January turnout of 12,994: more than double the previous year and 25 percent above the previous record of 9,613 set in January 1989.

By February there was enough snow for snowshoers and crosscountry skiers to get out on the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail and set another record for attendance in the Park.

Some 14,577 visitors made it to the Dunes that month, besting the previous record of 12,366 by more than 2,000. That record was set in February 2005.

March 2016 marked the first time in Park history that more than 20,000 visited that month of the year.

Some 20,166 were counted, up more than 40 percent higher than last year and about 1,300 greater than the previous record of 18,850 set in 1995.

In May, visitation jumped by more than 25,000 over last year’s record 74,361 to 100,289.

This also marked the first time visitor numbers topped the 100,000- mark for the month.

Momentum in park visitors continued to build in June when a record 258,960 were counted, up from the previous record of 256,462 set in 2015.

And July, historically the busiest time at Sleeping Bear, was very busy — record busy.

Some 486,506 visitors enjoyed the park that month, topping the previous record of 483,291 set in ‘15.

Likewise, August figures also set a new record. There were 442,439 visitors at the park, besting the previous record of 437,914 set in 2012 by about 4,500.

It was also about 83,500 more than the number counted in August 2015.

April stands alone as the only month this year in which no attendance record was set. Some 30,032 people visitors enjoyed Sleeping Bear that month — more than 7,000 short of the record set that same month in 1987.

Figures for that month dropped by about 6,000 from April 2015 to 2016.

Still with much of the color season ahead, a new annual attendance record is within reach.

“Oh yeah, we’ll get there,” Ulrich said.

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