Column: Beach, park development projects begin in summer

ESCANABA — Are you ready for summer? This winter has given us all a chance to embrace our Upper Peninsula lifestyle. Loads of snow and deep cold spells remind me of the years of growing up here. Some of the most exciting times were braving the weather and usually finding a lot of fun in the process. Harsh weather can cause some inconveniences to our daily lives, such as being late for work. However, it can also add a lot of excitement and adventure. Take the extra time driving to work behind the snow plow and be thankful you live in this place.

While I am grateful to live here no matter what time of year it is, I am looking forward to this summer more than usual. The snow melting and the warm sun turning everything green is a wonderful image, but I am also looking forward to something else this summer. Something that I think will transform our area soon and build on the momentum of growth that our community is experiencing.

The cities of Gladstone and Escanaba are working with Visit Escanaba and other stakeholders to bring a firm to Delta County that specializes in parks, recreation, open space and trails planning and design. They have planned and designed attractions in California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington to name a few and their work is amazing. They will be here this summer for a week-long design process where they will engage with our community to gather ideas and information for enhancing our parks and beaches along the shores of Lake Michigan. You can look at Grand Haven in lower Michigan to see how a similar beach development project that they went through years ago has transformed their lakefront community. They have been featured in national publications including USA Today’s Best Freshwater Beaches series because their beaches are so spectacular. This type of development in Delta County will help usher in an economic wave that will transform our communities.

With multiple sites being considered for waterfront development in our cities, having award winning beaches and lakefront parks will attract investment in the surrounding areas and transform the region. Which is why I am so excited for summer and the opportunity to start the local design phase.

This will be a process and the first steps are planning and design, which have already begun and will continue in June during the design week held in Gladstone and Escanaba. Once the first phase is completed later this year, we will have a comprehensive plan that will help us build synergy between our lakefront beaches and parks for this expansion project. Over the next few years we should be completing a significant infrastructure development project that will be an economic driver for the region for generations.

Visit Escanaba is building a significant digital marketing campaign for this summer to continue raising awareness and excitement across the Midwest about the fun that visitors can experience in our coastal towns. Tourism has been increasing here year after year and this summer should be the busiest yet. We will welcome many visitors this summer including a team of designers that will help us continue transforming this community into a prosperous lakefront destination for travelers and residents alike. Look for information coming soon about your opportunity to be a part of the planning process and help us transform this community.

Please contact me if you have any questions at (906)786-2192.

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Robert Micheau is executive director of Visit Escanaba