Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center renamed to honor David Obey

Supporters of The Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center gathered virtually and in-person on August 28, 2020 to celebrate the center’s renaming as the “David R. Obey Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.”

The Center opened in 1998 and is a unique partnership involving The US Forest Service, National Park Service, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Historical Society, University of Wisconsin – Extension, and the Friends of the Center Alliance, Limited.

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Former Congressman David R. Obey

Congressman Obey was instrumental in establishing the Center which showcases elements of Great Lakes history, natural resources, and visitor information under one roof. The Center includes indoor exhibits and activities as well as interpretive nature trails on the grounds.

Obey served in the House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s 7th congressional district from 1969 to 2011.

He served as Chairman of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations from 1994 to 1995 and again from 2007 to 2011.

Obey said of the renaming, “I am honored to join Gaylord Nelson and Martin Hanson as the junior partner in long term efforts to remind the public where human beings fit in the scheme of things.”

He went to on to say, “Wisconsin is known as the environmental and conservation center of the Great Lakes region. This facility is here as a reminder that forces far greater than human will have shaped the land that we love.”

Obey continued, “This building is a reminder in this era of political divisiveness that cooperation and teamwork are still useful tools in the hands of public servants. That’s what it took to produce this educational tool for the public, adults and kids alike.”

Speakers lauded Obey for his commitment to “fighting the good fight,” to environmental protections and to representing the people of northern Wisconsin.

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Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers

Governor Tony Evers said, “Dave has been there fighting the good fight for progress. He offered a lot, he accomplished a lot. He understood our state at its best. I know the people of Wisconsin our communities, their land and water will benefit for generations to come, for your work, Dave. Congratulations on this incredibly well-deserved honor. Thanks, Dave!”

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Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin

Senator Tammy Baldwin said, “This place is special. And it reflects Dave’s love and appreciation for the environmental beauty of the north woods. And it honors his years of public service and commitment to making environmental protection and conservation a top priority for our state and our nation. Generations of Wisconsinites will know your hard work, defending Wisconsin’s Great Lakes and protecting the natural treasures of this great state.”

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Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson

Governor Tommy Thompson said, “I was proud to work with him on this project when I was governor, like we did on many, many others.” Thompson said, “The end result is a wonderful welcome to those visiting Wisconsin’s north coast up on the big lake.”

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Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan

Congressman Mark Pocan said, ” I am really happy to be here today to honor Dave Obey. Dave is an institution in Washington. Dave is truly a master of making sure that we put our values through our investments… where you really care about things is where you put your money. Thank you for all you’ve done for Wisconsin. The visitor center wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for you. We need to make sure we recognize the value… You have made a profound impact.”

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Former Wisconsin State Senator Bob Jauch

State Senator Bob Jauch said. “You are a cherished friend and mentor. I can’t think of a better way to honor your career.” Jauch added, “In naming this center, we are recognizing your legacy… Over four years you never lost sight of where your heart was… that was in northern Wisconsin.”

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Tia Nelson

Tia Nelson, daughter of former Senator Gaylord Nelson said, “Dave is, like my father, the embodiment of what it means to be an honorable public servant, to fight the good fight for what’s right, no matter the obstacles. Certainly had to do that to get the Visitor Center built.” Nelson said, “Dave, my father, Martin – they fought long and hard, they faced many obstacles, they never gave up.” She also shared some historic photographs that will hang in the Visitor Center.

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Lynne Dominy, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Superintendent

Lynne Dominy, Superintendent of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore said Obey saw the importance of the National Lakeshore and public lands. “We appreciate all of the things you’ve done for us, your service, your support, your visision and your stewardship and your commitment to National Parks and to public land.”

You can watch the ceremony on Obey’s Facebook page.


  • FOCAL President Mary Motiff (emcee)
  • USFS Forest Supervisor Paul Strong
  • Apostle Islands Nat’l Lakeshore Sup. Lynne Dominy
  • Gov. Tony Evers
  • Sen. Bob Jauch
  • UW System President Tommy Thompson
  • Rep. Mark Pocan
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin
  • Congressman Dave Obey
  • Tia Nelson
  • Mic Isham, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission

The David R. Obey Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center is located on County Highway G just off of US Highway 2, two miles west of Ashland.

The Visitor Center is closed until further notice to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. The trails and grounds remain open. The Spirit of the North Gift Shop is open and employees will be providing Visitor Services outside on a limited basis. Click here for more information.

The Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore join the distinguished speakers in congratulating Congressman Obey on this special day and in thanking him for all he has done. We look forward to seeing the newly renamed Visitor Center open and thriving once again.

David R. Obey Great Lakes Visitor Center photo credit: US Forest Service

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