2018-09-08 / Top News

Shepler’s Dock Traffic Should Improve in 2019

By Stephanie Fortino

Following an hour-long discussion of traffic concerns at the head of the Shepler’s Dock, the City Council’s Streets Committee agreed to recommend that the Planning Commission approve a request from Melanie Libby and Ira Green to move the main entrance of their new hotel, Waterfront Collection South, from Hoban Alley to Main Street. The amendment to the site plan prompted the Planning Commission to seek more information about the traffic flow at the dock, since a portion of the hotel is built above it. The dock is at the corner of Main and Hoban streets.

“This is the most congested corner on Mackinac Island,” said Mayor Margaret Doud who led the meeting.

Also attending were representatives from the neighboring Ryba’s Lakeview Bike Rental, Shepler’s Ferry, Planning Commission, and Mackinac

Island Carriage Tours.

The main reason for moving the hotel entrance, said Mr. Green, is to avoid congestion of hotel guests and their luggage on Hoban Alley, which is also used by neighboring Lakeview Bike Rental. Moving the entrance requires a change to Main Street façade of the building, which the developers tried to avoid in an effort to get Historic District Commission (HDC) approval. When reviewing the amendment, the HDC agreed that changing the existing single door and window into a double door had little impact on the architectural design.

While Councilmembers Kay Hoppenrath, Andrew McGreevy, and Steve Moskwa agreed that moving the entrance would avoid congestion in the alley, Pete Deckert of the Lakeview Bike Rental raised concerns about the hotel guest bicycle parking that will be installed along the building in the alley. The Lakeview Bike Rental uses the alley to stage bike renters before they enter Main Street. There are about 32 bicycle parking spaces proposed for the area, Ms. Libby said, but she noted that most guests will not frequent the alley to park their bikes, and additional hotel parking would be inside.

While Mayor Doud raised concerns that moving the hotel entrance would contribute to congestion at the head of the Shepler’s Dock, Mr. Green said the benefits to alleviating congestion in the alley outweighed those concerns. He also noted that traffic into the hotel lobby would be much less than the retail shop that was there previously. Half of the first floor of the building is also used as a bike shop, where people can reserve rental bikes that must be picked up at the Mackinac Island Bicycle

Shop livery to the north of the dock, helping alleviate congestion at the outdoor kiosk. Customers might also purchase equipment or used bikes from the shop, Mr. Green said.

Traffic at the Shepler’s Dock has been impacted this summer by the unfinished dock expansion project, said president Chris Shepler. This summer, passengers, dock porters, freight, and Shepler’s employees have had to crowd under the 600 square foot sheltered area, which will expand to about 1,300 square feet when the dock expansion along the shoreline is finished.

Mr. Shepler said the contractor, Derousha Marine, has promised that the project will be finished by May of 2019. The project was supposed to be done at the beginning of the 2018 season. Construction there will resume November 1, he said, and the company will work as much as possible each day to get the project done. Construction is slated to begin each day at 7 a.m. and end by 10 p.m., coinciding with the city’s noise ordinance requirements that are in effect year-around. He expects there to be three barges on hand in the bay to finish the work. During the offseason, Shepler’s freight will be brought in at Star Line’s mid-down dock, the old Arnold dock.

The dock expansion will feature a covered canopy area for passengers to wait in line, and another area designated specifically for luggage. Many concerns were raised about the dock porters working on the dock, which Mr. Shepler has said can be challenging. Porters should not ride their bikes on the dock and weave in and out of passengers, Planning Commission member Mary Dufina said, and her fellow committee members agreed.

Throughout the summer, dock porters have been parking their bikes on the sidewalk at the head of the Shepler’s Dock, as they try to position themselves close to the luggage offloading area. Mr. Green had offered an area on his bicycle livery lot next door for the porters to use, but it has been underutilized.

Working with the dock porters is a challenge each summer, Mr. Shepler said, noting he has kicked about 25 porters off the dock over the years for not following the rules or reckless behavior. In recent years, he has also tried to coordinate a meeting with the dock porters to share concerns and understand what they need to work efficiently, but it has been difficult to schedule. Mrs. Dufina, instead, encouraged Mr. Shepler to communicate with their hotel employers, and advocated the company notify the hotels when their porters don’t follow the rules. She also suggested the new dock plans be shared with the porters so they understand how the traffic flow there will change with the addition.

Mr. Green agreed to make copies of the traffic flow plans, noting hotel porters should welcome the new luggage area. He also noted the property is equipped with 27 security cameras, so they’ll be able to identify porters who don’t follow the new traffic flow plans.

Mayor Doud also noted that most people do not use dock porters to haul their luggage, instead preferring to take their the belonging with them to hotels or back to the ferry. Dock hands will take luggage from passengers and load it onto carts for transport to the mainland.

How passengers arrive and dis- embark from the Island was also discussed at length. Mrs. Dufina said that no matter how many signs are installed to direct traffic, tourists will not pay attention because they’re on vacation. She advocated that a person be designated specifically to work on the dock and direct passengers. Mr. Shepler liked the idea of having an “ambassador” fill that role.

Brad Chambers, treasurer of Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, noted the company has had a difficult time staffing the Main and Hoban streets intersection, as it has in the past. Next season, he intends to make the corner a priority.

The dock has had such an ambassador previously, provided by Carriage Tours.

“You need an Ada Chambers,” Mrs. Dufina said, referring to such a person who oversaw traffic flow at the dock before she retired and moved off the Island.

Other changes to how the traffic flows could also be made, Mr. Shepler said, including moving the ticket collection area farther down the dock.

“Our goal is to get people off the sidewalks of the City of Mackinac Island.”

Mr. Shepler will also work with Mr. Chambers to develop a better plan for staging luggage intended for Grand Hotel. Mrs. Hoppenrath also noted that the Grand Hotel buses cause congestion at the head of the dock and that needs to be addressed.

Mr. Shepler was also interested in whether the city was still in the process of trying to purchase the Coal Dock, and Mayor Doud said it is still being pursued. He also asked whether the deal will be settled in the next two years, and Mayor Doud said she was hopeful the city would have the dock much sooner. She also noted that Mackinac Island Ferry Capital filed a motion to stop the city from attempting to acquire bottomlands under a portion of the dock, which was denied. Mr. Moskwa noted the city has made an offer on the dock, which has not been acted upon.

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“Our goal is to get people

“Our goal is to get people off the sidewalks of the City of Mackinac Island.” The goal should be to get people that are walking OFF the street and onto the sidewalk. Nothing worse then having people leave the ferry dock and then stand in the middle of the street and look around. Or start walking up the middle of the street 4 wide. There needs to be a greater employee presence at several points downtown telling street walkers to please use the sidewalk. The street is for horses and bicycles.
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