2017-09-28 / Front Page

Fall heat drives up tourism

Lakeshore has busy September
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


JEFF ANDERSON of Detroit enjoys some unusual late-season boating. He shown in the Northport marina Saturday afternoon when temperatures hit 90 agrees across the peninsula. 
— Photo by Ron Kramer JEFF ANDERSON of Detroit enjoys some unusual late-season boating. He shown in the Northport marina Saturday afternoon when temperatures hit 90 agrees across the peninsula. — Photo by Ron Kramer Unseasonably warm temperatures this month — the hottest weather of the year — kept visitors coming and cash registers ringing during what many call the “shoulder season” between Labor Day and color tour.

“We’re solar-powered,” said Mary Salerno, staff member at the Village Cheese Shanty in Leland. “The more sun we have, the busier we are.”

Like so many local businesses, crews at the popular sandwich stop were busy through Labor Day and — for a few days — caught their collective breath. But Mother Nature saved the best for last in the waning days of summer, dishing up the warmest streak of summer that began Sept. 21 and continued through Tuesday.

“We’re still very busy. A lot of people are trying to get their last beach day in,” Salerno said.

For the five-day period beginning Saturday at the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center temperatures topped 90 degrees four times and broke records Saturday and Monday with highs soaring to 92.

Summer in September also attracted thousands to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this month, contributing to what could be an all-time high attendance for the month.

“The hot beach weather brought people out in droves,” said Tom Ulrich, deputy superintendent at the National Park. “People wanted to wring every last bit out of summer figuring they may not have another opportunity.”

Although visitation totals for the month of September will not be available until late next week, Ulrich said he thinks this year is on pace to top last year’s record of 1.68 million patrons.


ENJOYING A Friday of shopping in Suttons Bay are, from left, Anne Gabriel of Great Fall, Va., Barbara Gabriel of the Bronx, N.Y., and Ellen Gabriel Manhattan, N.Y. They are resting in front of Edwards Home Furnishing. – Photo by Ron Kramer ENJOYING A Friday of shopping in Suttons Bay are, from left, Anne Gabriel of Great Fall, Va., Barbara Gabriel of the Bronx, N.Y., and Ellen Gabriel Manhattan, N.Y. They are resting in front of Edwards Home Furnishing. – Photo by Ron Kramer In August, visitation at the park totaled 428,705, the third-highest attendance for the month.

August 2016 set the standard at 442,439 and August 2012 saw a surge in visitation to 437,914, following Sleeping Bear’s designation as the “Most Beautiful Place” in the country.

The year before, August had just 397,953.

This month the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire has been hopping and parking areas on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive full with spillover vehicles parked on the road shoulder.

“Our custodial staff, roads and trails staff, fee booth workers and orientation staff has been working their tails off,” Ulrich said. “These people have done great work while making their rounds.” Through the end of August, visitation stood at 1,365,003, trailing the same period last year by just 958 people.

How much is too much in terms of visitation at the National Park?

Ulrich said the Park Service considers whether numbers negatively impact visitors’ enjoyment of the park and whether attendance puts natural features in jeopardy.

“There’s a specific department of the Park Service that examines the impact on visitor experience and natural resources within the Park,” Ulrich said. “We may be asking for a site visit from them.”

The recent summer temperatures have positively impacted the number of campers at Leelanau State Park, at the northern tip of the peninsula.

“If it’s not nice weather, our park doesn’t fill up,” said Stephanie Rosinski, lead ranger at Leelanau State Park.

“We’ve been full. Our trails have been busy and there are still cars coming in to see the (Grand Traverse) lighthouse.”

Campers filled the 52 sites at the state park Saturday, Sept. 9. Very few campsites were left vacant on Friday, Sept. 15, but the campground filled Sept. 16 and again Friday and Saturday.

“We usually tell people there’s no need for reservations because we never fill up after Labor Day,” Rosinski said. “We have just 11 sites open on Friday and we’re completely booked for Saturday.”

Day-trippers from throughout the area also made it to Leelanau County this week.

Barb Jacobs of Traverse City and her friend, Bill Thomas of Saginaw, visited Fishtown Monday.

“We’re doing some sight-seeking and stopped to have lunch at The Cove,” she said. “It’s summer in September and we figured we might as well enjoy it.”

Clear days and cool nights in late August and earlier this month resulted in a fall color forecast from the Michigan State University Extension that put the peak-color or the northern Lower Peninsula at a week earlier than normal.

However, the record high temperatures may have changed things a bit.

The County Road Association of Michigan (CRAM) released a fall forecast Friday that puts peak color for leafpeepers at Oct. 7- 14 — about normal for Leelanau County.

CRAM also provided a list of roads to travel to find magnificent leaf colors.

The list in Leelanau includes North Eagle Highway, Newman Road, Port Oneida Road, Gill’s Pier Road and Schomberg Road.

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