It’s almost done! National Park Service crews have been busy this spring, assembling and installing a brand new accessible amphitheater on Stockton Island, thanks in part to Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and collaborating donors and funding partners.
This new raised-deck amphitheater is being built near the Stockton island Visitor Center, on the same gentle hillside where aging benches and fire ring had been located. The site is near the Presque Isle Bay Dock and an accessible campsite, all of which are connected by a boardwalk.
When completed, around July 4th, this project will enable visitors in wheelchairs, using walkers or with mobility issues to move from the dock or already accessible campsite up to the contact station and on to the raised-deck amphitheater.
Planners envision that the new amphitheater will be used by park visitors for campfire programs, by middle school students attending annual Island School educational programs, as well as for tribal gatherings, meetings of researchers and gatherings for other groups and individuals. In the Ojibwe language, the amphitheater is Maawanji’iding (Place Where) Maawanji’odiwag (They come together.)
Workers at the Wickcraft Company in Madison, Wisconsin manufactured the support structure components last year. Installation, originally planned for last summer, was delayed by the pandemic. This spring, two park service boats, including a 47-foot landing craft, delivered the the high-strength structural steel components and treated lumber to Stockton Island.
On the island, National Park Service crews of 8 to 10 people assembled the galvanized steel support structure and decking of pre-cut southern yellow pine. Project manager Tommy Richardson says it was like putting together a challenging puzzle, working from very technical blueprints to keep everything level. He credits the team at Wickcraft who designed and pre-built every puzzle piece and the on-site installers for this engineering feat.
Click through the slideshow to see each stage of this important construction project.
The next construction tasks include installing a safety railing and ramp rails, a fire pit and ring, 19 ABA and ADA accessible recycled plastic benches and possibly picnic tables. Trees will also be planted to create a natural buffer between the amphitheater and the nearby ranger residence.
This much-needed project fits within the Friends core commitment to removing barriers for people of all abilities to explore the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It is the first of several big projects planned according to the Park’s 2012 Accessibility Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan.
Park Superintendent Lynne Dominy said, “This amphitheater now enables school groups, camping groups, and other boating groups to have a fully accessible seating and meeting area near the dock on Stockton. This is a great example of what can be accomplished when partners like FAINL write grants and find donors to support accessibility projects.”
Friends Board Chair Erica Peterson said, “We feel fortunate to have donors, and a park, who embrace the need to share the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and help “Friends” leverage public and private funds to further steward the park’s future.”
The new amphitheater is funded by $55,000 in grants and private contributions to Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore’s wilderness accessibility fund.
1:1 matching grant funding was made possible through a 2019 Outdoor Foundation Challenge Cost Share Program which supports NPS mission-related projects that align with the goals of local partners. This project was one of 20 chosen from 97 applications. The Outdoor Foundation is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and growing future generations of outdoor leaders in partnership with the National Park Service and Wisconsin Coastal management.
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office for Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act, Grant #NA17NOS4190035 initially funded the schematic drawings that started the project.
What is next to do?
- Raise funds for an appropriate weather shelter
- Install an interpretive sign
- Continue developing appropriate accessibility features at Stockton beyond a campsite, ramps, and amphitheater
We look forward to providing updates on this project and to a potential grand opening celebration later this summer. We invite you to get involved with Friends of the Apostle Islands to make this – and other exciting accessibility projects – happen in the park. Those plans include improving access at Meyers Beach, Little Sand Bay and Sand Island.