Saturday, July 14, 2012

Small Town America, Manisitque, Michigan, the “Boardwalk”

This is the first of a series of articles to profile some aspect of a small town in America principally under 10,000 in population. Topics covered for a small city or town will be diverse and broad. The emphasis will not be on individuals, but features that give the community some sense of uniqueness as perceived by the American Vagabonds.
As a preface, much of America’s largest cities are widely covered by the print and electronic media; yet, small towns and cities have interesting positive stories too and that is what the intent of American Vagabonds will attempt to convey in this series.
Our first town/city is Manistique, Michingan, located on the northern side of the great Lake Michigan. This is part of the unique region known as the Upper Peninsula in the great state of Michigan. This small village of approximately 3,000 inhabitants feels to us to be a much larger city because of its impresssive business district rivaling downtown Torrington, CT, a far larger populated city. Manistique, Michigan, in our opinion gives this impression primarily due to the tourist industry which this small city and the entire Upper Peninsula region is heavily dependent.
What the Vagabonds found most interesting to share in this premier edition of “Profiling...” is the nearly 2 mile long boardwalk in Manistique. It runs along the nothern shore of Lake Michigan from the city’s downtown, past the Marina then, past the picturesque East Breakwater Lighthouse and eastward for over a mile. As a side note, the lighthouse was built in 1919, stands at 35 feet, and was automated in 1969. Along the boardwalk, a walker can divert and walk the quarter mile jetty out to the lighthouse. The walk along the jetty is most enjoyable and scenic and worth the diversion.
The term boardwalk is a bit of a misnomer. There are, in fact, three separate and distinct surfaces-asphalt, cement and indeed boards. We speculate that what accounts for the asphalt and cement surface differences were more to funds available, and when the particular stretch of the boardwalk was built. As we were there over the 4th of July holiday, it was difficult to do a thorough research on this magnificent asset of this small Upper Peninsular Michigan city. However, we were able to discern that the project was completed in the early 90s and what captivated the Vagabonds’ interest was that this “boardwalk” project was spearheaded, not by government, but by local downtown business folks. It is certain that government was involved, such as helping to provide the “boot camp” labor in the construction of the boardwalk. This note was conveyed to us by a veteran and local citizen at the local VFW.
The entire boadwalk runs parallel to the main southern east-west artery in the UP, Rte 2. There are five free parking access points all with porta-potties and a number of structured restrooms. As a number of senior citizens both local and travelers walk this magnificent walkway, the Vagabonds recognize this most welcome contribution by the good townspeople of Manistique.
The entire boardwalk encompasses three zones of mother nature. There are the trees and shrubs, the swale zone (low flat areas beteen the beach and the trees and the strubs), and the beach flat zone. Each zone has its own vegetation providing food and shelter to a number of birds and insects including but not limited to the red-wing blackbird, the song sparrow, and the beautiful Monarch butterfly. It was indeed a sight to see Joan chasing a number of Monarchs frustrated with their, the Monachs, shyness to be photographed.
On the east side of the walk there is a parking lot with a shelter, and a well providing a welcome clean continuing stream of water. Anyone with a bucket or jug is welcome to take some water. There are also picnic tables at this rest area.
While I can see the potential economic benefit of the boardwalk to the downtown businesses, the more important benefit is to the townfolk and those who visit this wonderful small Michigan city. To walk this “boardwalk,” to gaze upon all of the wonderful vistas to be seen, and to hear all the wonderful sounds of mother nature to include a very great lake was a wonderful experience, and the Vagabonds think these are worth sharing.

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