2017-08-05 / News

Historic Parks See Rise in Tourism and Announce New Projects

By Cathryn Lien


The “Somewhere in Time” Gazebo and its surrounding grounds look fresh and orderly following major landscaping undertaken this year by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. The gazebo commemorates the classic 1980s romance film, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, whose scenes were shot at Grand Hotel and other Mackinac Island locations. It’s popular for weddings and movie buffs. The “Somewhere in Time” Gazebo and its surrounding grounds look fresh and orderly following major landscaping undertaken this year by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. The gazebo commemorates the classic 1980s romance film, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, whose scenes were shot at Grand Hotel and other Mackinac Island locations. It’s popular for weddings and movie buffs. Attendance and museum sales are up from last season at the three restoration sites operated by Mackinac State Historic Parks— Fort Mackinac and Fort Holmes on Mackinac Island and Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City—Director Phil Porter reported at a state park commission meeting last week.

Mr. Porter said park attendance rose by 1.72% (196,395 this year versus 193,083 last year) and museum sales by 3.82% since 2016 at this time. He predicted this trend will continue in these last months of the season.

Fort Mackinac attendance is up 2.20%, Colonial Michilimackinac attendance is up 1.02%, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is up 6.84%, and Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park is up 1.72%. Museum store sales are up $18,496.03 through July 21.

July 4, which featured the special events Fort Mackinac’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July and Grand Hotel’s American Picnic, saw admission sales of 13,000, one of the largest crowds the parks have hosted for the holiday weekend. Ferry Lines, Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, and other Island businesses also had one of the busiest July 4 holiday periods in years.

These increases coincide with an overall growth in Straits of Mackinac area tourism during the first half of the summer, according to early indicators. A week ago, the Mackinac Bridge executive secretary reported that traffic was up for the first half of 2017 on the span connecting Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas.

June traffic on the Mackinac Bridge was up 4.3% this year, compared to the same month last year. 437,174 vehicles crossed in June, compared to 419,285 in 2016. Fare revenue was also up 6.2% for the month, compared to last year.

Mr. Porter called 2017 “a fantastic year for media coverage,” noting multiple recent discoveries from archaeological digs at Colonial Michilimackinac, which were featured on broadcast and print news outlets and on Archaeology Magazine’s website. Artifacts excavated at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City were trade silver, Chinese export porcelain, Jesuit rings, and a brass crucifix.

Media coverage of MSHP also increased because of to a “FAM tour” coordinated by marketing Manager Dominick Miller and Deputy Director Steven Brisson. FAM tours host travel agents, writers, or tour operators and aim to increase awareness of tourist destinations and what they have to offer. MSHP hosted seven freelance travel writers this June and, according to Mr. Miller and Mr. Brisson, the resulting articles have been “non-stop.”

“We really enjoyed hosting that FAM in June. It was an exciting challenge to put together an itinerary for them that not only showcased our sites, but also showcased the Mackinac area as a whole for them,” Mr. Miller said.

He expressed gratitude to Island businesses that sponsored the tour- Grand Hotel, Mission Point Resort, Island House Hotel, The Inn at Stonecliffe, Ryba’s Fudge, Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry, and Mackinac Island Carriage Tours.

The park commission approved hosting more tours in the future.

MSHP’s curator of education, Katie Mallory, announced that evening cannon firing demonstrations would begin this fall. Ms. Mallory also confirmed MSHP will continue its annual school visits to classrooms across Michigan, teaching the history of Fort Mackinac to 10,000 students every year during the fall and winter months.

The park commission is establishing a new online ticket sales system that will make it more convenient for tourists to purchase admissions. With the new scanning program, guest service representatives of the MSHP will be able to scan visitors’ tickets directly from their cell phones. MSHP is assessing the cost of this system and how it will integrate with the current software. The topic will be discussed again at the end of this season.

Three upcoming projects were discussed at the meeting: the Biddle House on Main Street will become a museum focusing on Native American history; the artist-in-residence program has been fully-funded; and work is underway on an apartment for the visiting artist above the park visitor’s center.

Plans for a botanical garden trail that will run in conjunction with the Arch Rock bike trail are in the works. The trail will showcase wildflowers and trees that thrive on the Island and also will interpret Mackinac’s botanical history. The park commission is working with Barnwell Landscape and Garden Service on the concept for this trail.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2017-08-05 digital edition