By Carol Stiffler

When the U.S. Census Bureau released figures for the 2020 census, it indicated Luce County had lost 19.5% of its residents in the past 10 years.

And Michigan believed it.

I’m in need of confirmation from census officials – and I have requested it – but local research alone shows it’s pretty much impossible that Luce County lost nearly 20 percent of its population over the last ten years. It seems the prison population was dropped from Pentland Township’s census tally this year, without explanation. There was either an error or a revision that hasn’t yet been explained.

Why, though, was the giant loss believable across the state? If this was really happening, why wouldn’t this dramatic decline have made news long ago?

If this population drop had been reported in Grand Traverse County, readers and reporters across the state would have been shocked. Or even in neighboring Mackinac County, I suspect people would have second-guessed the numbers. What? But they’ve got so much shoreline on the Great Lakes! And so many people visit – the businesses are thriving! Why can’t residents see how great it is there?

But there was no statewide disbelief that one in five Luce County residents must have wanted to flee the county.

That’s very disappointing.

True, the figures were released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Considering the source, you’d like to trust the information.

And there were dark moments in the past decade. When I moved back home in 2017, it seemed there were for sale signs on all populated Luce County roads. It looked like everything was for sale. Residential homes, beach homes – everyone was selling. Some houses in Newberry were being offered for 16 or 20 thousand dollars. It was concerning.

But that didn’t last; nothing on this earth stays unchanged.

Quietly, and without anyone fully understanding why, the real estate market shored up, as stated by real estate attorneys. Homes have been purchased, and largely by full-time residents, according to local real estate agents. Try to move to Luce County now and you’re going to struggle to find a home or apartment – they’re all filled.

We do not overlook our flaws, and we see our weak spots. Our kids leave for other opportunities and often don’t come back. We have a strong drug problem – but so does every county in the nation. Our flaws are not spectacularly awful, though our tax base is small.

We have the kind of neighbors you can trust to watch your house, or your pets, when you’re gone. We have teachers who love our kids. Churches that feed us when we’re sick, or just poor. An animal shelter with heated floors for unmoored pets. A hospital currently in the midst of a growth spurt. A county we love so much, most of us can’t stand the thought of leaving, and haven’t for generations.

Wealthier, more populated counties likely don’t get us, but they don’t have to. We are glad to live here.

I wish the reaction to Luce County’s bogus population drop had caused a ripple of disbelief. What? But they’ve got the Tahquamenon Falls! Everyone goes there! And they have the most beautiful, untouched terrain east of the Keweenaw!

And so we do.