2016-12-15 / Outdoors

Lakeshore visitation mark keeps climbing

While attendance records have fallen nearly every month this year in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the November record will stand.

Whether it should or shouldn’t.

Strong visitation numbers continued at the Lakeshore last month with an estimated 27,774 guests — more than 5,000 above the 2015 number. But the November record will remain at the 32,445 mark recorded way back in 2001.

The 2001 total, however, seems out of place, sandwiched between years when less than half that number was recorded. And attendance in the Lakeshore was lower in 2001 than recorded in the years 2000 or 2002.

Gary Vanderziel, executive assistant to Lakeshore superintendent Scott Tucker, agreed that the figure seems out of place and could represent some type of a mistake made years ago.

“We don’t know what happened way back then. But those are numbers we have to stick with. We can’t go back,” Vanderziel said.

Regardless, the bigger story remains that attendance at the Lakeshore way back in October surpassed the previous record year set in 2015, and continues to climb toward a higher standard.

This year some 1,675,163 people were counted through November, well above the 1,535,633 record for an entire year set in 2015.

The Lakeshore uses a formula that includes actual visitation to focal points to extrapolate an estimate for total park visits.

An extended summer and pleasant fall weather appears to have kept the Lakeshore a popular place.

“This October was mind boggling. The Visitors Center was jam packed,” Vanderziel said, adding that peak color didn’t occur until two weeks later than normal.

Perhaps people returned for color tours, he added.

“I think people came up thinking the color was here when it wasn’t, and maybe they thought, ‘We have to go back.’ We still had leaves on the trees in November, and that doesn’t usually happen,” Vanderziel said.

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