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News from the Greater Munising Area: Tourism in an unprecedented year

Jaymie Depew, communications and special project assistant, Alger County Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership for Commerce Development, Munising Downtown Development Authority and Munising Visitors Bureau

With many organizations relying heavily on tourism dollars in the greater Munising area, there were plenty of uncertainties earlier this year regarding the local economy as the world navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the spring we were really skeptical of what type of summer or fall tourism season we would experience,” said Kathy Reynolds, CEO of the Alger County Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership. “Since we are an outdoor destination with some of the most beautiful natural resources in the country, fortunately visitors did come to the area which greatly helped our businesses and the employees that depend on this employment in the service industry.”

To ensure the wellbeing of area residents and visitors alike, cruises and other popular outfitters in the area operated at a reduced capacity to allow for proper social distancing, patrons had to wear masks, and surfaces were thoroughly sanitized between uses. Restaurants and bars had limited indoor seating and some even expanded their outdoor seating options.

“I’m proud of the many businesses in our area that implemented safety measures that were needed to help keep our community, workers, and visitors safe. A big thank you goes to all of our essential workers and all of their hard work,” Reynolds said.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Alger County to explore the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Hiawatha National Forest. The PRNL, known for its towering multicolored cliffs, waterfalls, sand dunes, and trails, saw an uptick in visitors this year. Visitation increased nearly 28% in July, according to the PRNL website. The neighboring HNF, which offers rugged and beautiful campgrounds, hiking trails, and numerous inland lakes, also received its fair share of visitors this summer and fall.

“The Hiawatha National Forest is always a great place to visit no matter the season. This summer and fall our National Forest saw more people turning to their public lands for retreat, refresh and solitude during this time of uneasiness,” said Cid Morgan, Hiawatha Forest Supervisor. “The Hiawatha National Forest worked alongside local and state officials, and our department to ensure the highest safety measures were in place for the public we serve, and for our employees.

Although it was a busy season, the HNF was able to accomplish a lot of its goals this year, Morgan said.

“Employees were able to continue conducting business across the forest serving over 750,000 people, our Hiawatha Resource Advisory Committee was approved with new membership and will be seeking project proposals at the beginning of 2021. The Forest submitted our priority project for the Great American Outdoors Act, including lighthouse restoration work on our great American heritage icons, the Doty Bridge snowmobile route is aimed to be up and functioning by early December and our employees continue to commit to quality work; day in and day out amidst the challenges we are all facing in this pandemic,” she said.

Cori-Ann Cearley, president of the Munising Visitors Bureau and owner of Pictured Rocks Inn & Suites in Munising said 2020 will go down in history as one of the busiest and most difficult summers ever.

“We are all grateful for the community support and the business during such uncertain times. I also want to acknowledge how great all of our tourism-based businesses did in mitigating COVID-19 and community spread in Munising. I am proud of how the entire tourism community handled the pandemic. Fingers crossed for 2021!”

Editor’s note: Jaymie Depew is the communications and special project assistant for the Alger County Chamber of Commerce/Greater Munising Bay Partnership for Commerce Development, Munising Downtown Development Authority and Munising Visitors Bureau.

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