Bob's Blog Up North Blog

The Bear’s Perspective: The Most Beautiful Place

When the media asks me, The Bear, whether Cherry Republic sales are up this summer because of the Good Morning America’s coverage.  I growl that we are, but is our growth rate curve steeper than other years?   Not significantly.
Whatever the level of impact our most beautiful designation had, our region is being discovered by the rest of the country.  This growth has been happening for decades as each year is more busy than the last.  Is it time we did something to stop this growth?  Is it the time we start building the moat from West Bay to Otter Creek?  If people want to come, let’s make them swim for it.  I mean, that’s how I got here– swimming with my lost cubs from Wisconsin to avoid the great fire.
If we really wanted to point our paw at the cause of these new visitors, I would point it at our long time visitors, retirees, summer home owners and locals.  The hotels and resorts have been full for years, so anyone new has to squeeze in to somebody’s existing home (or curl up with me in the woods).  Those new visitors were friends, neighbors and relatives of our regulars.  They each had those invitees that have never gotten around to visiting us while there here in Leelanau County, but this year, they came.  I heard more people saying “I had more people visit me than if I had 3 months to live!”

When the Most Beautiful Place in America story came out, it was inspiring.  It’s a year later now, and do we really need to talk about it anymore?   It should be time to focus on a new contest to win?   Another aggravation is the media’s coverage of how busy it is around the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  For 12 months there has been this ongoing media story of the crush of people rushing to see the most beautiful place.  It seems self promoting–  “look at how important we media are”– how we have brought throngs to the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Contest or not, I am going to have my own game I play this fall.  Be forewarned, that whoever mentions our most beautiful designation or how busy we are, I will stalk them and eat them and scatter their bones all over the dunes.   So maybe then, we can win most wild place in america….  grrrrr…..

What do you think of this coverage and it’s impact? Email us here.

Your Responses:

We were in the Glen Arbor area the last week of June. The only difference I noticed was a LOT more people at the dunes on the beautiful day we went to the Dune Climb. Oh, and I rode the new Heritage bike trail, what a great trail!!! I loved it!

Yes, it was busier than we had seen it in years, but are Up Northerners going to complain when Big Bob and the Independent Republic, the Route 66’ers, and all the Tourism Boards have been spending big bucks every year for just this outcome? GMA Contest or not?

We did hear a word or two from “locals” about all the “summer lic”, but that has been a complaint in TC, Ludington, Holland and South Haven since the ‘50’s.

Way to go and keep ‘em coming…

I’ve spent 40 some summers at Crystal Lake and one of our favorite things to do is go exploring. This summer we decided to check out North Bar Lake. We meandered up along 22, through the sleepy Sleeping Bear National Forest, and onto the little country road of N. Bar Lake Rd… a parking lot FULL of people and cars!! So much for hiding out in the middle of “nowhere.” Don’t know if I can completely blame Good Morning America for that one though. All of those secret nooks have been revealed by Google Maps. 🙁

I think the bear is spot on. The media have this strange ritual of “discovering” places like the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Glen Arbor, and then another one of them “discovers” it again a year or two later. Let’s face it, the media outlets up north have a pretty high turnover rate so every time they swim past the castle it looks brand new…And then the media moguls from down here have to “discover” it on a little less frequent basis, but just the same, a producer visits up north and decides the Chicago travel correspondent just has to do a story about this wonderful place…

And while this is all well and good (or is it?) the bear knows where the people are coming from and it isn’t because folks have all turned off their televisions and pointed the car north. If I had done that I would have travelled around the world several times in my lifetime. Money, time, and transportation prevented all of those transworld circumnavigations. And I suspect that with today’s economy that the Good Morning America viewers from Wyoming, or Nevada, or Alabama and other points distant just don’t have the time off, the money, or the motivation to make the trek to see the Sleeping Bear Dunes just because it was on TV.

My $.02!


This summer we observed lots of license plates from states much farther away than the usual Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and of course Michigan. Over the 4th of July weekend, some of our family did the Platt River canoe trip….it was like a Chicago expressway that day! It was bumper to bumper traffic on the river. It seemed every where we went there were crowds. Much busier than past summers.

We were able to collect license plates from more exotic places other than Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. This year we were able to add Maryland and Massachusetts to our list just to mention a few!

From the top of the dune at the Dune Climb you could see a long line a traffic coming from the Pierce Stocking Drive. Fortunately for us, these new visitors did not find Alligator Hill.

We didn’t really feel the full brunt of the numbers as we did not get up to Glen Arbor until August 18, however we learned to eat early at Art’s, watch the traffic and pick the right times to go to Cherry Republic to avoid the very long lines.

Cheers and thanks for another great visit (our 16th year). My husband is enjoying his new wine glass.

I very much enjoyed your article from Sleeping Bear’s perspective. It made me smile.

My family and I are very fortunate to have a small place across from Little Glen which borders the federal land on two sides. We are at our place as often as I can possibly work it into our busy lives (we are two full time working parents with a 13 year old daughter and 8 year old son – as well as our 1 year old Weimaraner!). I love, and I mean LOVE being in Leelanau County – so much so that I hope we can make a permanent move there someday. Prior to finding our modest place up north, we visited often every year and rented properties all over the county enjoying all that the beautiful outdoors has to offer. I loved all the towns, but Glen Arbor became my favorite. Having young kids, I loved how the Cherry Republic was always welcoming to families as a place to hang out and play games. I loved the movie nights on the lawn of the Art Center (why don’t we do that any longer?). And following in what I assume to be a family oriented Sutherland approach, I was so happy to see places like The River open up that enhance the outdoors, provide activities for families (including free ones) and do not impact the environment too much.

I was not happy when the most beautiful place in America designation was broadcast to the world – but then again I realize that my opinion was pretty selfish. After all, aren’t I one of the people that discovered the area years ago and felt the same way? (So much so that I secretly felt my ¼ German heritage was somehow linked to Pt Oneida when I first explored it over 10 years ago J). I also know that the attention created demand from local businesses and would invariably help take the bite out of the seasonal nature of the local economy. Nonetheless, I hoped that year two would not be as crowded. Of course I was wrong. It appeared the traffic was worse, on the roads, the trails, the beaches, and the water. This traffic scares me for many reasons; infrastructure of sewer and water systems and environmental impacts of erosion and pollution (not to mention lack of quite moments of solitude). I am not as much bothered by ignorance as I am disrespect. I have heard so many stories of visitors who want to know “Where is the ‘spot’?”. That simply makes me laugh. However, I get so angry when people leave a place worse than they found it and unfortunately there were several times this year I have found this to be true.

Rather than continue to allow my frustration to eat away at me and ruin my frequent returns to my beloved Leelanau County, I resolved myself to smile (and take deep breaths) while picking up after those who don’t do their part – at all the beaches, on Alligator hill, even in town. And despite perhaps being labeled as a “crazy or embarrassing lady”, by both strangers and my family, I have take to politely asking people if they are enjoying the area and if they would please make sure they leave it in better shape than when they arrived.

PS Thank you to the Sutherland family for all that you do for the area

Even though I loved that it is bringing business to Glen Arbor and the CR, I’m a little sad that someone found my little piece of heaven. We were there at the end of August and I have never seen it so busy, so for me for me personal I’m a little sad about it. But on a positive note, we brought our bikes this year and really enjoyed the bike trail.

Hi! Thanks for the opportunity to respond! As per many of your newsletter readers we love Cherry Republic and its products and Glen Arbor! 3 generations of our family have been enjoying the area, own a condo, and have been coming up many times a year for 30 years. This is our favorite place in the world!

This summer we came up in June, July, and August. Here is what we noticed:

We have never seen as many people in June as we saw this year. It was shocking and we noticed more in July and slightly less in August (we were there late August 22-29)

Prices were certainly higher at the Cherry Republic – for example, hot dog $6.95 which kids used to enjoy – was too high, didn’t buy it. All the prices at the Cherry Republic store seemed higher. It was a turn off and we worried the charm of Cherry Republic would be lost. The nightly dinners were good though and reasonably priced. If you want to promote your great family activities, you need to promote more menu/product items that families can buy – otherwise they will stay away.

The prices at stores and restaurants were higher – we are worried that the publicity is making store owners greedy. As a business owner, I know it is all about growing business, however if the area is ruined with out of sight prices, it will be a turn off to families, and only rich retirees will be able to afford it. We hope that doesn’t happen. This has been a wonderful area for families.

When we went up to Empire bluff to hike all 3 times this summer – there was no place to park – it was so crowded. This is the first time that has ever happened.

We didn’t see any increased pollution in the city, beaches, bike trail, etc.. – that was a worry for us and it was great to see how great Glen Arbor looked and how clean with all the extra people!

Cherry Republic has done the most to publicize Glen Arbor – so thanks for realizing your responsibility to get feedback on the result. Thanks for the focus on nature, conserving the area and the beauty, family appreciation of Michigan, etc.. while you have parallel goals of making money.

If you go too far, it will really ruin the charm and beauty of our favorite place. Please keep it special with families in mind!! Thanks for all you do and we wish you continued success!

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