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“Access for All” aims to make Apostle Islands National Lakeshore a place everyone can enjoy

A conceptual Drawing of Meyers Beach Accessible Ramp.
Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
A conceptual Drawing of Meyers Beach Accessible Ramp.

The towering red cliffs and rolling sand beaches that line the Lake Superior shoreline are two of many unique features that make the Apostle Islands worthy of its National Lakeshore designation.

Park Superintendent Lynne Dominy also recognizes they can make the park hard to access for anyone. It’s lead to an important question over the years.

“How do you take the natural environment and make them more accessible,” said Dominy.

In the early years of the park, the most obvious solution was building stairs.

But that leaves out a part of the population that can’t navigate stairs.

In the last decade, Dominy says the park has started to rethink what it means to be accessible.

“We have a lot of old infrastructure. We have a lot of staircases. We have a lot of things that might have small print or hadn’t thought about the audio element,” said Dominy. “We’re really focusing on what do we need to do to be more universally designed and more accessible to everyone. National Parks belong to everyone.”

The park has already made significant changes over the years to improve accessibility.

Little Sand Bay now has a wheelchair accessible overlook.

There are accessible campsites, restrooms, and a board walk on Sand Island.

And there are audio and tactile interpretative materials at visitor centers.

“Everything is being very carefully thought about in terms of the grades and the ramps and the views and all the many different approaches we can put in place to where we can make it more accessible to everyone,” said Dominy.

The Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore group wants to ensure these improvements can keep happening.

One the biggest projects the two organizations want to tackle is adding a 520-foot-long accessible ramp at Meyers Beach so people can better access the kayak launching area.

“You can stand there at the top of, as I’m sure you have, at the top of Meyer’s Beach. You look out at the big blue backdrop of Lake Superior. You envision those incredible sea caves to paddle in, but the real barrier is 45 steps down a 23-foot bank, just to get to the beach,” said Jeff Rennicke, Executive Director of the Friends of the Apostle Islands.

The Friends group has started the “Access for All” campaign with a goal of raising $325,000 that can be matched by the National Park Service.

You can learn more about it and improvements already made in the park on the Friends of the Apostle Islands website.

“We all know that in many cases, back then and even today, are not really accessible to all. It can’t really be the best idea America ever had unless they work for all of us. For me it goes back to the beginning of National Parks,” said Rennicke.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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