The summer tourism season is here

Freshwater seas, flowing rivers and waterfalls, natural wilderness and more are all right outside our front doors. We should consider ourselves lucky, seeing as we’re the ones who live where others choose to vacation.

It’s that time of year again, when our grass is greener, the skies are bluer and visitors from all around flock to the Upper Peninsula to retreat from their everyday lives.

The summertime here in the U.P. is a time we can all breathe a little easier, relax a little longer and enjoy life at a season when time seems to move at a slower pace.

Most would agree that tourism in the U.P., and elsewhere in Michigan, has seen some pretty steady growth over the last few years.

A prime example of that in Marquette County is the Sugarloaf Mountain Natural Area. Sugarloaf is located along Marquette County Road 550 in Marquette Township, not far outside the Marquette city limits. It’s maintained by the county and has become a popular hiking attraction during the summer tourism season.

Rugged trails and man-made stairways lead hikers to the summit, and from the top, at 470 feet above Lake Superior, beautiful vistas of forestland and coastline are all around.

But at the base of Sugarloaf is a parking lot that’s often crowded during the summer months. Vehicles have overflowed to the shoulders of the county road and the safety of passing motorists and those people entering and exiting their vehicles has become a concern.

“The parking lot was improved back in 2014, which kind of handled the situation for a while, but we’ve just seen such an exponential increase in traffic along (County Road) 550 that the parking now is not adequate, by any means,” Thyra Karlstrom, Marquette County interim manager of planning, said in a recent Journal article.

County officials said the natural area saw more than 47,000 visitors last year, and with only 30 parking spaces to accommodate that level of traffic, we believe it was a necessary decision for the Marquette County Board of Commissioners to authorize the survey and design of a parking lot expansion there.

Speaking of congestion, Marquette’s Presque Isle Park is no stranger to that issue either.

Black Rocks, situated at the northwest part of Presque Isle, is a popular spot in the summer. The dark cliffs, from where people leap into Lake Superior, have become a part of the city’s identity, with the jump into the big lake considered by some to be a rite of passage for tourists and people who have recently moved to the area.

Again, with that popularity comes an increased number of vehicles jockeying for the few parking spots there.

Due to safety concerns and ensuring access to the area by emergency vehicles, the city has taken measures to improve the situation by restricting parking on Peter White Drive, the roadway that goes around Presque Isle.

These are just two examples of our area’s wonderful outdoor attractions and the issues that are caused by an increase in awareness of them.

We’re glad our local governments have taken steps to address the dangers found at these sites.

Safety is always a concern, and we must all do our part to make sure these places and others like them remain areas we can all visit and enjoy without the worry of causing harm to others.

Be mindful of where you park your vehicle and slow down if it’s busy or congested. Remember, time here during the U.P.’s summer season moves at a slower pace, and you should too.