Those lucky enough to call Northern Michigan home love to talk about why they call Northern Michigan home.
It’s the crystal blue waters of Lake Michigan that are so vibrant, you’d think you’re looking out at the Caribbean. It’s the quaint small shops with friendly faces behind the counter who welcome you inside with a first name greeting. It’s knowing your neighbors, and understanding you’re always there for one another.
But we know there’s a tradeoff.
The job market is tough. As an area that relies on tourists and seasonal jobs, having a college degree doesn’t mean much if you can’t find a job in your field. It’s expensive — housing, groceries, gas — there’s a reason we hear so much from people who say they’d love to call Petoskey or Charlevoix or any number of the other small towns up north home but they just can’t justify that cost of living.
I was lucky to call the Petoskey area home for 10 years. I had a job I loved, businesses I very much enjoyed frequenting, friends and coworkers who I considered family. My son was born in Petoskey and I can’t think of a better place for him to have spent the first six years of his life.
But I also know how people in Northern Michigan often view outsiders. We complain the “fudgies” cause all those summer traffic problems, we rant about them taking up the good spots at the beach or forcing us to find a parking spot three blocks from the restaurant instead of right out front. We have a tendency to go on and on and on about how they disrupt life in our beloved community.
Except we need the vacationers. The Petoskey area triples in population each summer. Many of you reading this have a job dependent on those visitors. We need tourists to choose Northern Michigan for their vacation destination so they can spend their money in our shops and restaurants and hotels. We need them to give the local economy a boost so we in turn can pay our bills and continue to live in what so many of us know to be one of the best places on earth.
I realize we get bad apples. I’ve seen first hand how some out-of-towners act while they’re visiting a place they have little to no ties to, knowing they may never visit again. I understand how having an influx of people in our communities can cause headaches for so many who are just trying to live their lives and make a living and go on about their day.
For visitors, being rude is never OK. Nor is living here and publicly shaming all those who choose to come visit.
It’s a guarantee there will always be bad apples in the bunch, but when it comes to us in Northern Michigan relying on so-called fudgies, we can’t let the few bad ones spoil the whole bunch. For every rude tourist in Northern Michigan who may make a scene at the local restaurant or shop or on the beach, there are 100 more who are just friendly faces happy to be on vacation in the area we know to be one of the best spots in America.
Tourists are Northern Michigan’s best renewable resource. And while a few may come for a visit and exhibit behavior that makes national headlines, we can’t lump them all in the same bunch. Instead, we can focus on all those who are just happy to be able to visit and encourage them to keep coming back. We can tell them to bring their friendly loved ones who will appreciate the area as much as we do. Because if they all stop coming to visit, you have to wonder what else the area might lose. Don’t we all want every aspect of Northern Michigan to thrive?
— Rachel Brougham is the former assistant editor of the Petoskey News-Review. You can email her at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Rachel Brougham: Tourists are our best natural resource