This one is for the adventure seekers.

Should tours to the top of Mackinac Bridge be offered to the public? One Michigander says, "Yes."

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ryan Kazmirzack. He grew up in Michigan and is now proposing a plan that would hopefully boost tourism, raise funds, and provide a thrilling experience all at the same time.

His plan? To offer tours of the Mackinac Bridge tower to the public as a paid tourist attraction.

Are Tours Currently Offered?

The answer is yes and no. Mostly, no.

In his plan, which you can read here, Kazmirzack details how in 2019 a total of 277 visitors were able to visit the top of the Mackinac Bridge tower. Of the 277, only 83 were members of the general public. The rest were well-connected VIPs or, as stated in his plan,

people who happen to know someone in the governor’s office or state Legislature, or someone with the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

As well, passes for the tours are sometimes used as gifts for charity which gives the opportunity to those who could afford the highest bid (sometimes those bids are in the thousands of dollars).

Keep in mind, even if made available to the public, the tours will not be accessible to everyone in terms of physical capability. Getting to the top of the tower includes:

  • Getting through a narrow hatch on the side of the tower
  • Riding an elevator that's barely big enough to fit 3 people
  • 40-foot ladder climb
  • Squeezing through a tiny opening at the top

At that point, you'll be 350 feet above traffic and 550 feet above the water. There are guardrails at the top for stability and, apparently, there's no swaying felt at the top of the tower. But, as far as tourist attractions go, this would require a lot of physicalities from those visiting.

Need a visual? Check out this video from 2014 of the tour from start to finish:

What's the Plan?

Kazmirzack proposes that by charging for tours a profit could be generated that could be used for a number of different things. All of it at no cost to the taxpayer.

As far as the price point goes, there's nothing firmly set right now. This is still a proposed plan. But, as an example, Kazmirzack threw out a figure of $250 per person per tour. Which, in reality, is very low in terms of the kind of tour this is (the Yankee Air Museum charges $495 - $575 for a 25-minute flight). Still, at that rate, even if only 3 tours were conducted 5 days a week, that's an additional $390,000 in profit.

*To be clear, Ryan Kazmirzack is not proposing this as a business venture for himself. He would have no part in running the tours. He's just the one proposing the plan.*

What Would the Money Be Used For?

The question, of course, is what exactly would this money go towards?

Kazmirzack submits that the funds could be used for:

  • Mackinac Bridge maintenance
  • Make natural areas more accessible to people with disabilities
  • Restore shuttle service for the annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk

Just to name a few. If you've participated in the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk, you might remember that prior to 2017, a shuttle was used to transport people to one side of the bridge, drop them off, and they would walk to the other side.

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The shuttle service was ultimately canned due to costs and concerns about potential terrorism. Read more here.

Even if the state decided against charging for tours, Kazmirzack says that, instead, passes could be given to businesses like Pure Michigan to use in giveaways, to lawmakers to give to their constituents, or to other charities throughout the state to be used, again, as giveaways.

Ultimately, the goal of this plan is to create an attraction that would boost tourism not only from people within the state of Michigan but, from other states as well. And, to make it more accessible for more people.

In our conversation, Kazmirzack did express some frustration with his conversations with lawmakers. "I'm getting a lot of reasons why it can't be done. But, no one seems to be discussing how it can be done," he said.

Hopefully, with more people talking about it, this is something that will come to fruition in the not-so-distant future.

Ryan Kazmirzack's plan is incredibly detailed and goes even further into how liability would be covered, how to implement the plan, who could conduct the tours and more. Find his entire plan and contact information here.

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