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Labour Day Tradition Suspended due to COVID19

Labour Day Tradition Suspended due to COVID19

annual Mackinac Bridge Walk

SAULT STE MARIE, ONTARIO  ~~~~  September 7, 2020 (LSN)  There are, no doubt, thousands of people waking up on Labour Day 2020, disappointed that the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk was forced to be suspended due to the COVID19 pandemic. This would have been the 63rd year for the epic event.

Pedestrians cross the nearly 5-mile-long engineering marvel  - that is a suspension bridge, connecting Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas. The walk generally gets started around 6:30 a.m. with a declaration by the Governor of Michigan, who leads the trek across the Straits of Mackinaw. People leave in staggered groups throughout the morning with the last of the groups on the bridge by noon. It’s one of the most organized events a person will participate in.

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Echoing a focus on safety that led it to bar public traffic from the bridge during the Annual Bridge Walk beginning in 2017, the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA) suspended this year’s event.

The unanimous board decision was reached during a special meeting in May, 2020.

Acknowledging the event’s benefit to the Straits community economies, Mackinac Bridge Authority Board Chairman Patrick “Shorty” Gleason stated that the suspension is for the 2020 event only and said he currently expects the walk would resume in 2021.

 “We can’t in good conscience continue with an event we know draws people from across our state and beyond, and puts them shoulder-to-shoulder for hours, when medical advice strenuously advises against such gatherings,” Gleason said.

Indeed, The annual Labour/Labor Day event draws people from across the world, not the least of which are Canadians.

In addition to the usual school buses that shuttle walk participants, the MBA also secures the services of several charter buses to add to the fleet. In 2016, the MBA had 88 buses for the event, compared to nearly 130  for 2017, 2018, and 2019. Additionally, the time it took each bus to load and transport passengers dropped from 45 minutes in past years to about 20 minutes in recent years because all of the lanes of the bridge were closed to traffic.

The shuttle buses bring walk participants from Mackinaw City to the start of the walk in St. Ignace, but also transports people who had already participated back to their cars in St. Ignace.

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In 2017, visibly heightened security was seen along and below the Mackinac Bridge. Michigan State Troopers, The Sheriffs Department, U.S. Homeland Security, and The U.S. Coast Guard were part of a large security perimeter. Even Great Lake Freighters were held back from passing through the Straits of Mackinaw until the walk was completed..

MBA Vice-Chairman Matt McLogan, who chairs the Bridge Authority’s finance committee noted that the ongoing pandemic has caused toll revenues to decline along with traffic volumes, diminishing funds available for the more than $300,000 in expenses the MBA incurs for the walk.

“The walk is a wonderful tradition, which I have consistently supported. But the MBA must hold the line on expenses wherever it can now because we don’t know when or if regular traffic volumes will resume,” McLogan said. “Pausing the Walk for 2020 is the responsible course of action.”

Each year, between 25,000 and 57,000 people from several states and countries have come to the Mackinac Bridge for the Annual Bridge Walk.  The ‘Mighty Mac’ walk and family friendly event has taken place since 1958, the year after the bridge opened to traffic.

If you’ve ever participated, you know how amazing the views are from atop the ‘Mighty Mac’. If you haven’t – I urge you to add this to your ‘bucket list’. Yes, it’s a long walk at 5 miles, but trust me – as long as you have on a good pair of walking shoes, you can absolutely do it. There are a number of paramedics positioned along the bridge as well. Wheelchairs are 100% welcome. Children can be pulled in wagons or pushed along in strollers, and you even get a certificate at the finish line in Mackinaw City.

https://www.mackinacbridge.org/

Photo and Story by Lynne Brown

LSN_SSM

Lynne Brown 

Algoma writer and reporter. 
Former Content Director, Superior Media.
In the 80’s, Lynne worked for AutoTrader Magazine in rural Southwestern Ont.
Has written for special editions Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal. Trudging through farmers’ fields for a picture of a 56 Dodge Custom Royal was considered a very good day. @dlynnebrown on twitter

 

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