Great Lakes restoration attracting cruise ships to Detroit

More Great Lakes cruise ships will visit Michigan in 2012, according to a Detroit Free Press article, and one of the most significant destinations is Detroit.

The MV Yorktown

The fact that cruise ships are visiting Detroit is proof that Great Lakes restoration isn’t just good for the lakes — it also stimulates the economy.

Forty years ago, cruise ship operators wouldn’t have dreamed of visiting Detroit. The Detroit River was a toxic mess and the city’s waterfront was dominated by factories, cement silos and other unsightly industrial facilities.

The Detroit River and riverfront have been transformed in recent years from industrial wasteland to recreational haven.

The river supports a thriving fishery, is home to a diverse wildlife population and is popular among boaters.

Detroit’s waterfront has been transformed by the Detroit Riverwalk, a spectacular 5-mile long pathway that has reintroduced residents of the Motor City to the city’s namesake river and is serving as a catalyst for the redevelopment of downtown Detroit.

The Free Press reported that the 138-passenger MV Yorktown, along with its 100-passenger sister ships Grande Mariner and Niagara Prince, will visit Michigan 23 times in 2012. Thirteen of those cruises will begin or end at Detroit’s new dock.

The ships will also visit Wyandotte, Holland, Beaver Island, the Soo, Manistee, Saugatuck, Mackinac Island, Whitefish Point, Houghton, Munising and Charlevoix, according to Free Press travel writer Ellen Creager. Go here for itineraries.

“It is fantastic news for Michigan tourism — and could mean an influx of more than 2,500 tourists to visit our shores,” Creager said.

Michigan’s growing reputation as a destination for Great Lakes cruises demonstrates the economic value of restoring the lakes. Studies have found that every dollar invested in Great Lakes restoration generates two dollars of economic activity.

President Obama and Congress have invested $775 million in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative during the first two years of the program. Funding for the GLRI could be slashed, however, as Congress looks to trim the federal budget deficit.

Great Lakes programs aren’t immune to budget cuts. But in an era of government programs having to justify their existence, it’s important for Congress to remember that Great Lakes restoration heals the lakes and boosts the region’s economy.

Detroit is proof of that.

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