2017-12-28 / Front Page

Park likely won’t set a record

Due to ‘average’ November attendance

A slow November will likely keep Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore from setting another attendance record.

“November was sort of an average November,” said Lakeshore deputy superintendent Tom Ulrich. “It was pretty close to the average, and as a consequence we pretty much lost all potential to break last year’s record.”

But a snow-filled December could make the final tally close.

The Lakeshore estimated some 17,839 visitors in November, about 10,000 less than in 2016. This year’s total through the firs 11 months of the year stands at 1,668,847 visitors.

The Lakeshore record was set in 2016 with 1,683,553 visitors. That means the December 2017 total would need to top 14,706 to top the mark.

But only twice has more than 10,000 visitors been recorded in December. Some 13,653 visitors were recorded in 2015, and 10,841 visited the park in 1994.

Snow drives winter visitation at the Lakeshore, though, and Ulrich said he’s noticed an uptick in traffic with the Heritage Trail open and groomed for cross country skiing.

“The Friends (of Sleeping Bear, a nonprofit) say they’ve groomed the trail more this year than they did all of last year, so it’s shaping up to be a great snow season,” Ulrich said.

The Heritage Trail, whose first leg was opened in 2012, has helped increase visitation. Attendance during the last two Januaries have set records.

And snowshoe hikes have become, well, snowshoe hikes. In past years the hikes have been held despite a lack snow.

“It will be nice for people to actually use the snowshoes, rather than just go for a hike with a ranger,” he said.

But Ulrich said it’s tough making up visitation ground in winter months that attract about 10,000 people to the park. By comparison july 2017 set a new attendance record for any month with 561,784 people.

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