BIRCH SHORES RESORT
by Jay Bitely (2005)
My sister Brook and I grew up in a children’s paradise. We have a supportive and loving family, new friends every week, and an extended family that spans the entire United States! You see, we were born and raised at Birch Shores Resort where our parents, Alan and AnnJo Bitely, taught us the skills to learn from everyone we encounter. It’s no surprise that our resort has return customers from coast to coast; the atmosphere at BSR is that of a close-knit family. Here’s how it all started . . .
Our great-grandparents Irl and Sybil Bitely were faced with a dilemma in the mid 1940’s. They wanted to start a resort but were undecided whether to do it in Florida or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Eventually they decided on building the resort on Big Manistique Lake, three miles north of the unique waterfront village of Curtis. Sixty-plus years later it is still family owned and operated with 29 rustic cabins.
Birch Shores Resort was opened for business in 1947, beginning with 7 cabins. Within the next few years the number was up to 20. In 1956, our grandparents, Gerald and Alta Bitely, sold their farm in Schoolcraft, MI to come up and help run the resort, bringing along their three boys, the youngest of which being our father Alan. The following year they added cabins 21-29.
Activities at the resort are seemingly endless: beach volleyball, basketball, badminton, ping-pong, horseshoes, campfires, fishing, sunbathing, stargazing, waterskiing, and nightly campfires on the shore of Big Manistique Lake, just to name a few. Most people know who will be coming up the same week they will be here. We still hear many fond stories about how people ended up staying here for the first time and their first impressions upon meeting our great grandparents and/or out grandparents. This makes for a wonderful week of vacation but also some tearful goodbyes. One would think that the goodbyes should get easier; they don’t. After a week or two of hanging out wit the same people year after year, we consider them family and many lifelong friendships have been made throughout the years.
Though we never knew our great-grandparents, their spirit is still alive and well here. We have many faithful clientele that have been coming up for generations; three families are on their 5th generation already! our great grandfather instilled his love of people into our grandfather, who in turn passed it on to our father, and here we sit, 5 generations later, with the same values, friendly atmosphere, and love for we do and who we do it for. With all the laughter, moments, and memories that we have shared with our family of guests throughout our lives, we believe that our great grandfather chose wisely.