ALPENA - Future growth in Alpena will be largely dependent on people traveling to town to get an up close look at the shipwrecks and learn more about the history of the Great Lakes, according to Michigan's governor.
Attracting large numbers of tourists requires a great deal of advertising and promotion. On Tuesday the sanctuary received a great deal of publicity as Gov. Rick Snyder visited Alpena with a host of reporters from around the state to dive the Monohansett shipwreck site that is in about 16 feet of water.
Before climbing aboard the Pride of Michigan research vessel, Snyder said the visit and dive are an effort to promote some of Michigan's attractions that may not be familiar to potential visitors. He said places like the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary need to be promoted not only in Michigan and nationally, but around the globe. He said the Pure Michigan campaign is changing that, but more work needs to be done to show people what Michigan has to offer.
Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Gov. Rick Snyder emerges from the depths of Thunder Bay after diving the wreck of the Monohansett Tuesday while in Alpena. Snyder said there needs to be more focus on educating people about the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the opportunities it offers for recreation.
"This is about showing how wonderful our state is and an opportunity for me to learn more and hopefully show it to many others. I think there are many people who would love to come and visit a place like this, but we have to get the word out," Snyder said. "I hope this is good marketing. There is still natural growth that can take place with Pure Michigan. It has done extremely well and it is showing strong returns, but we are pushing more international marketing. International tourism is increasing and we're not participating in it the best we could. We need to tell our story and bring them to Michigan."
After the hour-long boat ride to get to the dive location, Snyder and divers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made the plunge off the boat and began their underwater expedition. The dive lasted about 25 minutes and was documented on video and underwater photography. Snyder said he is a certified diver and enjoyed swimming around the remains of the boat that sank in 1907 after it caught fire. After the dive Snyder said learning about the boat was as enjoyable as the dive itself. He said everyone must do a better job of bringing people to experience the shipwrecks.
"This is Michigan history and it is fabulous to see it up close," Snyder said. "Above water you're in one of the prettiest places in the world and you go underwater and it is the same way. I wanted to stay down longer and keep going. It was magnificent. A really undiscovered jewel."
Sanctuary Superintendent Jeff Gray said having Snyder visit and take part in a dive is important and can only lead to attention being drawn to the sanctuary and the shipwrecks.
"When you can have somebody like the governor who get a hands-on look at what the sanctuary is about is huge for us," Gray said. "It will really help us promote the shipwreck access we have here in Alpena. People can dive, snorkel, kayak over them and this will help get the word out about the opportunity to do those things."
Russ Green, deputy superintendent and research coordinator, said because many of the shipwrecks are in shallow water and there is easy access to them, almost anyone can can get close to them.
"There is the glass-bottom boat that comes out. If you have a boat or know someone, you can come out and snorkel, it is really easy to do," Green said. "It is a great dive and there is also some great fossil hunting here at this location as well."
After returning to shore, Snyder went to Alcona County where he was going to enjoy some time at the Alcona County Fair. He said he likes to attend fairs all over the state and was looking forward to saying hello to the people in Alcona.
"I'm stopping there to see great people and county fairs are another great Michigan tradition," Snyder said. "I stopped at the Ionia County Fair, the U.P. State Fair and others. I enjoy stopping at the fairs and meeting the wonderful people. I'm sure it will be a good time in Alcona and I'm looking forward to it."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com