Blue Ice Melting, Bridge Work, and Tourist Prep in Mackinaw/St. Ignace Area
(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 2, 2018)
Mackinaw City, St. Ignace, MI – In the summertime the beaches of our peninsulas are filled with vacationers soaking up the sun and admiring the Great Lakes.
But early springtime in St. Ignace and Mackinaw City is a different story, one with its own kind of beauty and a more relaxed kind of tempo.
Over the past two weeks, merchants, restaurateurs, and inn keepers have been emerging from their winter slumbers and making the towns pretty for the upcoming tourist season. “Devon” is a name seen throughout Mackinaw City. Devon’s Mackinac Island Popcorn Co, Devon’s Mackinac Island Taffy Co. and Devon’s Mackinac Island Fudge Co. all have locations scattered through Mackinaw City. According to the clerk the main location at 304 E. Central Avenue, is open all year round. “They get enough wholesale orders that it makes sense to stay open,” she said. “We just opened today.” Like many of the gift shops, candy, popcorn and fudge are plentiful. Lining the streets are also clothing and jewelry stores, along with sporting goods retailers and a handful of family restaurants. About a third of them were open last weekend, with many others in the process. People could be seen painting, making small repairs or renovations, dusting off, stocking up, and making plans to open.
Vicki Teyson and Amy Kreft are “ready for spring” at Teyson’s Gift Shop on Central Avenue. Even though they had just opened for the year, the store was full of shoppers checking out boutique clothing, jewelry that ranged from child’s play to fine art, Michigan memorabilia and other gifts. “We’ve been in business 92 years,” Teyson said. “It’s a family tradition to me, being able to open up and greet all the out of town guests. Some we know because they come every year, and we make many new friends.”
Kreft says living in Mackinaw year round is “beautiful.” “It’s very busy in July, but even in the winter there are always things to do. It’s quiet, but it’s never boring.”
BLUE ICE, MELTING
Mother Nature does beautiful things in the springtime, especially in the Straits. This year Mackinaw City was graced with an abundance of blue ice, which natives say tends to happen every few years. The ice is formed so quickly that bubbles do not form, and the tightly compact molecules absorb colors of light such as red, yellow, and orange – leaving the ice with a blue appearance. Photographers flocked to capture images of the blue ice with Mighty Mackinac Bridge in the background. Even in late April, some of the ice remained. But in springtime changes happen quickly, with each day’s shoreline forming a unique landscape.
THE BIG BRIDGE AND UNDERWATER UTILITY CLEANUP
Of course the biggest attraction is the five-mile long Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. Even the bridge needs prepping for the public. Normally the bridge is being repainted nearly constantly, with the entire span taking about seven years to complete.
Just two weeks ago though a new project began. Since the bridge was built 60 years ago, the main ivory towers had never been sanded back to the bare metal. This year’s project is to remove all the layers of lead-based paint and cover the bridge with a fresh coat of zinc-based instead. The project required workers to set up scaffolding over the roadway, and to have giant vacuum trucks to contain all of the paint chips and dust. Speeds on the bridge have been reduced and lane closures will be more common in the next few months, but the site of workers on the towers overhead is fascinating to see. The Mackinac Bridge Authority has cautioned people not to be distracted as they drive through.
Another housekeeping necessity comes in the form of boats in the straits tending to the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline and other utility lines under the water. The oil pipeline has made news with concerns that it may not be able to hold up due to age and maintenance issues. In March, Enbridge was issued permits to add anchors along the length of the line to help stabilize it and minimize damage should there be a break.
Unrelated to Line 5, two utility lines owned by Pewaukee were shut down in early April due to 600 gallons of coolant leakage. The hum of vacuums from a repair vessel echoes though the straits as the company continues the clean-up effort. According to the Detroit News “The two utility lines are among six that create two circuits that carry power between the state’s two peninsulas,” and “ATC, Enbridge and TransCanada operate a total of nine utility and transmission lines beneath the straits.”
Above water, people lined up to make the ferry trip over to Mackinac Island. Workers and travelers stay on the island for the season, and there are even year-round residents who rely on snowmobiles and airplanes for wintertime travel.
SNOW OWL, COYOTE, AND STARS
Another “up north” attribute is the wildlife. In the marina near the Coast Guard ship, lives a majestic and large snow owl, fluttering back and forth across the icy cove hoping to keep her nest safe. Many birds, including the abundance of seagulls and Canadian geese, make nests along the shoreline only to be scared off by the migration of humans to the area in warm weather. Some, however, adapt. Knowing that human beings often ignore signs like “Don’t feed the seagulls,” some birds don’t mind the tourists either.
Deer are also common in the area, though sometimes they end up on the side of the road. One such doe’s misfortune turned into a hearty meal for a wild coyote seen feasting on the side of I-75.
While nature preserves and wildlife themed attractions are an obvious up north choice, some people may not realize that just outside Mackinaw City is a uniquely beautiful place called Headlands Dark Sky Preserve. Here is a place on Lake Michigan without surrounding development, where even cell phone light is banned. The result is an amazingly clear view of the stars.
LOOKING AHEAD AND PLANNING FOR TRIPS
Rene Halberg of the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce Director Rene Halberg has recently taken the lead at the organiztion. “I am new here at the Chamber so all the events are new to me. The Car show in June has always been a great event, however over the last few years our other events have really grown. The Tractor show in September and the Richard Crane Memorial Truck show really bring in great crowds. I have a spark for the Truck Show, as when it comes to the Truck Show as I love to view all the beautiful paint / artistic work on the big trucks and of course to climb up and sit in the trucks,” she said. “We are busy with organizing the new the 2018 brochures for our businesses as well as working with the St. Ignace Visitors Bureau and the DDA on finalizing details for the summers events. Seasonal merchants are busy cleaning, ordering supplies and hiring staff for the summer. Our businesses that are open year around preparing as well. The spring weather this past week has helped to bring some sunshine to the businesses as well as warm up the outside.” One new member of the St. Ignace Chamber is Mystery Town, which is located in Mackinaw City.
Mystery Town allows families to explore mysterious places and stories, such as Area 51, Atlantis, Big Foot and the Bermuda Triangle.
There are many attractions within driving distance of both small towns. The UP touts many waterfalls and nature areas, as well as Oswald’s Bear Ranch, the Soo Locks, and the delightful Mystery Spot.
Another benefit of visiting in the spring, is that hotel rates are much lower. The Mackinaw Chamber of Tourism is a consortium of hotel owners who work together to make sure guests have a welcoming place to stay and access to information about the community. Lean more at http://www.mackinaw-city.com/
The Oakland County times encourages readers to explore their world. Check out more “Explore” stories at http://oaklandcounty115.com/category/explore/
Blue Ice Melting, Bridge Work, and Tourist Prep in Mackinaw/St. Ignace Area