There was plenty of cooperative spirit in the air at Monday night’s joint session of the twin Sault’s elected municipal representatives.
The first joint session since 2017 saw Sault Ste. Marie city council and Sault Michigan’s City Commission renew an International Mutual Aid Agreement for fire services. The two governing bodies shared updates on
their respective economic development plans and various projects. “I was certainly pleased to get together with our counterparts in Sault Michigan for the first-joint meeting since 2017,” said Sault Mayor Matthew
Shoemaker. “Furthering development of the important relationship between our communities has been a priority of mine, and the meeting represented an opportunity for elected officials and municipal staff to engage in a formal discussion about how we can work together with increased frequency.”
Each city has significant eco-friendly projects underway like Algoma Steel’s electric arc steelmaking and the Michigan Sault’s restoration of the Carbide Dock. Smaller but important projects, too, such as the revamping of Queen Street and the Michigan Sault’s modifications to Easterday Ave.
Both sides expressed definite interest in working closer together on attracting visitors while also providing recreation for residents. A presentation at Monday’s meeting by Duluth, MN consultant Anna Tanski of Cruising the Great Lakes, showed public interest in cruising the Great Lakes to be on the rise and the figures have the attention of Mayor Shoemaker.
Eight companies currently offer Great Lakes cruises with 11 ships. Close to 20,000 cruise passengers visited Great Lakes ports in 2022, a 25 per cent increase from 2019. The total for 2023 is projected to reach 25,000, a 15 per cent increase over 2022.
“I think it is important for the City to do what it can to encourage development in the waterfront area, so when cruise ship visitors stop in our community there is a welcoming and active atmosphere,” says Shoemaker.
The Mayor points to the new location for the Sault Market and the Downtown Plaza as enterprises that promote increased waterfront activity.
Plans to bring back a double-decker bus, an alternative to his 2017 plans of adding downtown trolley, will also serve visitor interests, the Mayor says.
Shoemaker says low water levels on the St. Mary’s River won’t hinder the Sault port. “Fortunately, we don’t anticipate that being a challenge,” says Shoemaker. “There’s a minimum water level that must be maintained to allow the freighters to move through the locks, so access to the area will not be an issue. We do accommodate vessels with deeper drafts at an alternative location, should the depth of the vessel exceed the water depth at Bondar Marina.”
With the popularity of luxury cruises on the Great Lakes gathering steam, Shoemaker wants the Sault to position itself to accommodate visitors and offer a pleasant experience.
He plans to follow up with council and city staff to that end. “One of the benefits of meeting with the Sault Michigan City Commission on Monday evening was it gave our Council and staff the chance to learn
more about what is going on across the river related to the cruise ship industry, identify opportunities to potentially work together and determine options for implementation at our port.”