Change can happen to the best of us!

This past weekend, I had a chance to revisit a favorite camping spot in Northeast Michigan.

As a child, our family would make annual pilgrimages to Shoepac Lake in southwest Presque Isle County. The property includes a deep fishing lake, rustic sites, and a trail that loops around five sinkholes. It’s been a number of decades since I have been back to this place. Imagine my surprise to find that it has changed!

Working on the edge of community development, change is an everyday topic of conversation in my career life. Before I say yes to something, I think about how it may change the community and if the change would be ultimately positive or negative. Change is inevitable, but constant and necessary in most scenarios. Change can be exciting, but it can also be difficult to accept or process, depending on the outcomes or circumstances.

In the few decades that I’ve been away from the Shoepac Lake campground, they have made some changes. Large boulders have been placed in strategic areas to slow or prevent erosion caused by human impact. They have formalized the sinkhole hiking trail, built split-rail fencing along precarious edges of the sinkholes so people won’t go tumbling down the steep hills, and put up trail maps.

Some of the changes are man-made, some are natural. The swimming beach I remember has been reclaimed by the vegetation. The sandy hill where I got in trouble for getting sand in my cousin’s fishing reel was overgrown with trees. The area was still beautiful. The lake was plentiful with panfish and loons. The quiet solitude of the natural landscape was refreshing. The changes were positive and, overall, made the area more accessible, natural, and enjoyable.

I have to imagine that this is how some people feel when returning to Alpena after a long absence. This is not the Alpena they left. Storefronts have changed. Waterfronts have new kayak launches and boardwalks and natural processes have changed some shorelines. A marine sanctuary has been designated to protect shipwrecks, lighthouses have been restored, access to natural spaces has been developed, and news ways of looking at everyday things (like dark skies) offer new opportunities. It’s the same, but yet it is different.

Maybe it is like that old T-shirt or hat you just love so much you wear it out. Then you buy a new one of the same exact style and you love it, but it’s just different than you are used to until you break it in. You have to spend some time with it. Wear it around for a while and before you know it, it’s your familiar favorite again.

Visiting the Shoepac Lake campground brought back many fun memories from my childhood. Even though some things have changed, it was still the beautiful place that I remember. It was also a great experience to realize that nothing remains locked in a time capsule, including the community we live in. Change can be good and positive, as long as it is respectful.

Mary Beth Stutzman’s Inspiring A-Town runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Mary Beth on Twitter @mbstutz.