Why the September Mackinac Bridge Walk was Cancelled in May
A Michigan tradition is over. At a special meeting on May 13, the Mackinac Bridge Authority called off the 2020 bridge walk due to COVID-19 concerns. Why now?
Surely, Governor Whitmer's executive order 2020-77 prohibiting "all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not of a single household," will have been rescinded by Labor Day. Yet, if you look closely, the decision to suspend the 2020 Mackinac Bridge walk should come as no surprise. More on that in a moment, but why now?
We recognize that September is months away but the event requires months of planning and early expenditures. Like organizers who have postponed festivals and other summer events, we needed to make a decision now.
In 2019, the Mackinac Bridge Authority spent more than $300,000 on the event and Michigan State Police costs were in excess of $150,000 for the 260 troopers on hand. Obviously, we can not guarantee where Michigan will be with reopening the state by September, and gatherings of 30,000 will not be allowed until Phase 6. The 2019 Bridge Walk had 30,000 participants and crowds have been bigger: 57,000 walkers were there for the 50th anniversary in 2007.
Not only is money a concern, but safety. Over the past several years, changes have been made to protect the public at this yearly celebration. Beginning in 2017, no vehicles were allowed on the bridge during the walk, and they parked buses in 2018. Last year saw the implementation of the u-turn strategy for walkers who wanted to go halfway and return to the peninsula they came from. The ban on vehicular traffic was recommended by Michigan State Police and Department of Homeland Security to keep citizens safe. With so many questions regarding COVID-19 lingering, it's really no surprise that officials have made the right decision to keep Michiganders and our neighbors safe.
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.
You can watch the full meeting below.