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What to expect at Sleeping Bear Dunes this summer? High lake levels and high visitation

There has been an increase in visitation at National Parks across the country. People are flocking to big name parks such as Yosemite in California, and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan is also experiencing a significant jump in visitation. 

Be it social media, lower gas prices, or being voted the most beautiful place in America by Good Morning America in 2012, Sleeping Bear officials expect to see 1.7 million visitors this summer, which would surpass the 1,643,599 who visited in 2018. 

Lisa Griebel, lead for the education and interpretation program at Sleeping Bear Dunes, discussed the increase in visitation and how social media could be contributing factor. 

"I think we’re getting close to capacity for certain areas of the park where the resource can only handle so much. The dunes are a fragile ecosystem, the landscape is fragile and there are more and more people visiting," said Griebel. 

To combat over capacity, Griebel recommends that visitors should explore different parts of the park.

"You can be on your own, not far from the high visitation areas, and still have your own experience," said Griebel. 

Griebel explains that eventually there will be a point where over capacity will damage the resource to an extreme level and visitor experience will decrease because of the overcrowding. 

Though there are not any statistics tied directly to social media, Griebel says that Sleeping Bear has seen an increase in connection to the parks because of networking sites, like Instagram. Visitors use social media sites like Facebook to communicate with the parks and Instagram to capture photographable moments to share on their feeds.

Griebel says people will do backflips down the dunes and others will practice yoga poses on narrow wooden platforms, all to achieve a photo or video curated to social media feed perfection.

While Michigan's National Parks aren't at the same risk caliber as Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, by way of social media there are visitors who are risking their safety to get the best photo or video at the parks. 

In 2018, at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore a woman fell to her death at while attempting to take a selfie, which was recently reported on NPR

“People want to get that highest point in the dunes or they want the most expansive view of Lake Michigan,” said Griebel. 

When visiting National Parks this summer, and specifically Sleeping Bear, officials ask visitors to be mindful of the lanscape and your footprint. With the lake levels being at a record high, officials suggest being open to exploring other parts of the park. 

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