TRAVERSE CITY — Manitou Island Transit ferry services will not operate this season because of dock conditions on both North and South Manitou islands.
Megan Grosvenor Munoz, whose family owns the Manitou Island Transit, said conditions at the docks at both islands forced the company to discontinue service for remainder of this year. Grosvenor Munoz said decades ago the National Park Service moved the private docks to a location that is prone to accumulating sand, rendering them inaccessible.
She said docks were replaced in a new location that would require maintenance every year.
“Our captains at the time advised the administration not to move the docks to where they were moving them,” Grosvenor Munoz said. “Unfortunately for the current administrators that was not their decision, it was just prior administration that did not listen to people who had been running on Lake Michigan for years.”
She said the park service does not have the budget to maintain the docks.
Tom Ulrich, deputy superintendent of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore said there is a $360,000 dredging contract for the north island to clear sand from around the dock. Ulrich expects access to be restored at North Manitou by late July.
He said there is $77,000 available from fee revenue to temporarily repair the South Manitou dock.
“We’re hopeful that we will move enough sand that it will remain accessible into the next year,” Ulrich said. “Although Lake Michigan is somewhat unpredictable, usually moving sand has given us a little bit of time.”
Ulrich said the National Park Service is considering long-term solutions to repair the docks.
“We definitely will be trying to augment those monies but we don’t currently have them allocated to us,” Ulrich said. “We will have to try to find a source for them to dredge additional sand in future years and to effect a longer-term solution.”
Manitou Island Transit is contracted with the National Park Service to operate as a concession, and has run shuttle and supply services since the early 1900s. Most recently Lake Michigan’s high water levels resulted in the cancellations of ferry trips to South Manitou Island last June. According to the ferry company, a request has been filed to get out of the contract temporarily.
Ulrich said out of the estimated 1.5 million visitors to the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore each year, about 10,000 visit the islands. He said private and charter boats can continue to take people to the islands.
“Smaller vessels should be able to access the islands more easily,” Ulrich said. “We’re anticipating that people will still visit the island this year.”
According to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, camp grounds on the island will reopen with the rest of the park June 23.