Dispelling common myths, moving forward

Since taking this position with the Convention & Visitors Bureau more than five years ago, there are a handful of recurring myths we address for visitors and local residents. Where these myths came from or how they continue to be perpetuated is unknown.

Myth 1:

Northeast Michigan has no good sandy beaches. It’s all just rocks so there aren’t any nice swimming areas.

Correction:

This one stumps me because much of our advertising depicts exactly what is here — pristine, golden shorelines. But I’ve heard it many times over the years from visitors who are surprised to discover our shoreline and lake bottom is not riddled with dangerous rocks for miles, as they have been led to believe. Most people we’ve heard this from have come here from the western side of the state. Starting at P.H. Hoeft and running south to Negwegon, there are at least 10 major parks with sandy shorelines and sandy bottom beaches, not to mention all the inland lake swimming areas and Thunder Bay River. Among other fascinating natural features, this includes sand dunes at Thompson’s Harbor State Park, shallow sandy-bottom swimming at Mich-e-ke-wis Park, and secluded backcountry campsites along sandy Lake Huron shoreline at Negwegon State Park.

Myth 2:

There’s nothing to do here.

Correction:

Where to even begin with this one? Even though we hear it less often than we used to, it continues to repeat. To take a sampling from this past weekend: The weather was beautiful for any type of water-related activity (kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, boating, fishing, etc.). There were a number of events taking place in the area, including the 35th Annual Antique Tractor & Steam Engine Show, the tail end of the Alpena County Fair, Thunder Bay Car Show and movie in the park, Meteors & S’mores event at Rockport State Recreation Area and another at Negwegon State Park, a picnic at Presque Isle Farms, a concert in the park, and live blues music downtown.

Myth 3:

We are too far off the freeway. Nobody wants to drive all the way here for a vacation.

Correction:

We greet people every day who have come here from all across the United States, Canada, and even other countries. We’ve been experiencing a trend in seeing more summer visitors coming to this area who live in the west or southeast parts of the Lower Peninsula. They list a slower pace, less crowding, lighter traffic, and more peaceful and relaxing activity options as reasons for visiting. We’ve also assisted guests from most states and major metro areas around the Great Lakes region. Visitor information requests from people researching vacation destinations continue to increase, as well. What is perhaps more important is that the people who are visiting align with what the community has to offer.

They aren’t coming here hoping to find a casino or indoor waterpark, they are coming here looking for an escape to nature in a small-town setting. And they find it. Our rural isolation is actually a blessing. It will help us grow more responsibly and attract the kind of people who share our values.

Have you encountered these myths? Can you help us correct misinformation about our community? It takes everyone working in the same direction to help leverage positive momentum. We’ve come a long way in the past five years. Where are we going? It’s up to each of us to lead our community in a positive direction and create an evolved version of this town that we love.

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