Friends of the Apostle Islands
Tracy Tabaka looks out at the blue horizons of Lake Superior. There, just beyond the Meyers Beach parking area, lie the green jewels of the wild Apostle Islands, the famous sea caves. She smiles, thinking of the freedom she will feel with a paddle in her hands, the wind in her face. She has been dreaming of this moment for years. But that smile fades as she looks down at the barrier before her — 45 steps tumbling down the 23-foot bank to the launching area below – and then at her wheelchair.
“When I pick up a paddle, I am no more disabled than anyone else,” she said of that moment. “The only real difficulty is all those stairs.”
National parks, like the Apostle Islands, belong to all of us. Yet for the one in five Americans like Tracy who live with mobility challenges, “all those stairs” can spell the difference between the adventure of a lifetime and a lifetime of being left behind. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a rich and complex landscape consisting of twenty-one islands spread out over 450 square miles of Lake Superior, twelve miles of northern Wisconsin shoreline, lighthouses, historic fisheries, sixty-six campsites, bears, beaches, and sea caves.
For the past 10 years Friends of the Apostle Islands has been work with Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on projects to make the park more accessible. A 2012 “Accessibility Self-Evaluation,” made clear both the challenges and opportunities facing the park in its effort to become more accessible. Since then, the partnership has made much progress:
- A wheelchair accessible overlook on the dock at Little Sand Bay
- Accessible campsites, restrooms, and more than a mile of boardwalk on Sand Island
- An accessible amphitheater and campsite on Stockton Island
- Audio and tactile interpretative materials at Visitor Centers and online
In order to increase financial support of accessibility projects, Friends of the Apostles has developed a multi-year Access for All campaign. Currently, the Friends are raising $325,000 to create a 520-foot accessible ramp gently traversing the hillside leading to a scenic overlook and providing access to the kayak launching area at Meyers Beach and beyond.
“With Friends raising $325,000 to leverage matching funds provided by the National Park Service, we can open one of the most beautiful and popular areas of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to everyone strengthening our commitment to the belief that our park truly belongs to all of us,” says Jeff Rennicke, Executive Director.
Access for All will strengthen the park’s ability to implement projects that may otherwise go unfunded for decades, opening key areas of the park for use by a wider range of visitors, removing “all those stairs” as a barrier.
For more information about the campaign, visit https://friendsoftheapostleislands.org/access-for-all/