The overwhelming popularity of Lake Superior’s attractions are reportedly providing a challenge for small lakeshore communities in Michigan and Minnesota.
Increasing numbers of tourists are flocking particularly to Munising, Michigan, to see the Pictured Rocks, a sandstone rockface towering above turquoise waters. Roughly 723 000 people visited Munising’s Alger County in 2015 on their way to see the rocks, sinking $30.6 million into the economies of surrounding cities and towns. This figure is a staggering increase from 561,100 visitors in region in 2011.
However, the Associated Press (Marquette, MI) reported that tourist influx in small coastal communities such as Grand Marais, MN and Munising on their way to the lakeshore has created shortage in hotel rooms, camping sites, and local restaurants. In addition, local officials noted traffic, transportation, and parking concerns.
While tourism economy is welcomed along Lake Superior’s shore, communities are struggling to keep up with ever-increasing demand. Munising officials, members of the National Park Service, and other organizations in Alger County created five groups to address tourism issues. The five groups cover seasonal employment and business opportunities, seasonal housing, public infrastructure, quality of life, and park congestion.
One of the biggest challenges is where to house tourists during peak seasons. Munising mayor Rod DesJardins told AP that “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 confirmed that rental and hotel occupancy often sees 100 percent occupancy.
Increased visitation to Pictured Rocks also invites increased safety concern as tourists kayak, hike, and bike to see the destination. AP reported that Laura Rotegard, the superintendent of Pictured Rocks, oversees a committee working on a video and handout to increase awareness around safety for boating and kayaking in Lake Superior.
Photo credit: By Trizicus – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12073661