We are seeing the effects of climate change – warmer, wetter and more frequent damaging storms. Last summer saw an extreme rainstorm that caused widespread flooding followed by a violent windstorm that took down trees that have stood for more than a century. In the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, 16 miles of trails are closed and another 14 miles of trails need clearing even after herculean efforts by rangers. Park staff is wondering how they will add the costs of clearing trees to an already-stressed budget.
Lake Superior is tough on our park’s cultural resources too. The small park staff is challenged with big park issues and workloads, and an operating budget that does not begin to keep up with inflation and Lake Superior’s fury. Spread out over 450 square miles, our park rivals the size of Rocky Mountain National Park. Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker estimates an 8.8 million dollar park maintenance backlog. “This year’s Centennial gave us a small financial boost, but in perspective, our operating budget is in the same place it was over a decade ago,” says Bob, “and with ten fewer rangers than 40 years ago.”
The park now serves between 150,000 – 180,000 visitors a year, 160 miles of coastline, over 150 historic structures, and 42,160 acres of some of the largest tracts of old-growth forests that remain in the Great Lakes Region.
In some ways we seem to go backwards. “We can no longer manage the park by ourselves,” says Bob. The Park receives Federal funds, yet fulfilling their mission requires outside funds. “Friends” help fill gaps left by the shortfall.
“National parks are too important for us to fail them now,” says Mark Peterson, Director of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College and a “Friends” supporter. “In this centennial year, let’s re-double our efforts to treat them better the next 100 years. There’s no better time than now.”
With your help “Friends” is poised to meet Mark’s challenge. In the past year we more than doubled our contributions to the park and would like to do that again. Please note that we have received a $5000 challenge donation from a couple passionate about the Lake and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. With this challenge we could grow our endowment and provide a steady income for education, stewardship and service related projects indefinitely.