As part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, we are collecting and sharing the stories of people connected to the islands, whether they are park guests, former residents or former park employees.
This is the 32nd in our series called “Lakeshore Logbook,” a collection of memories provided by former National Park Service employees.
Living and working in the park on a day to day basis, they’ve experienced a lot to be sure. We hope you enjoy their perspectives.
Heidi Van Dunk started as a volunteer in about 2002. She worked at Little Sand Bay at the Visitor Center front desk and Susan Mackreth was her supervisor. She gave tours of the Hokenson Fishery and enjoyed the view of Lake Superior from the front window.
What positions(s) did you hold?
The next season after volunteering, I was hired as a seasonal interpretive ranger by Neil Howk, stationed at both LSB and Sand Island. From that first season onward, I worked for Interp for four glorious seasons. In 2006 I was hired into my first permanent position with APIS as the Human Resources Assistant. As Jim Stowell, interpreter extraordinaire told me, “Congratulations! You have a lot of resources, Heidi, and they are all human.” It was a good fit.
My next position was into the Facilities division as the FMSS Specialist, hired by retired FM Randy Ross—I assisted in the management of all the incredible assets in the park (buildings, trails, docks, interpretive media, lighthouses, landscapes, etc.). This position with facilities opened the door for me to become the Facility Manager at APIS in 2015. I did this job until 2020. My career at APIS was golden, and truly every day I am thankful for everyone that believed in me (EVERYONE!) and took a chance on me. I love the NPS, and I love working in facilities.
What is the coolest thing you did in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) as part of your job?
So many! One of the coolest things had nothing to do with my daily round in facilities. Having the opportunity to join the APIS Resources team to band Piping Plovers on Long Island was amazing It’s a rare gift to be a part of this incredible experience, and I will always remember that day.
What is the most fun experience you had in the park?
Working with facilities—seeing the absolute incredible work and work ethic that this team has. Facilities performs some of the most labor-intensive work, often gritty and stinky, infested by bugs, and they still smile at the end of the day.
Please share a memorable experience you had in the park.
Being tossed into Lake Superior as my parting gift before relocating to Flagstaff Area National Monuments. We were shooting a video for a training program, the theme was on facility leadership…thank you, Chief of Mischief Garyck Hoenig.
What is the most amazing thing you saw in the park?
During my season as a volunteer, I was asked by Neil Howk to spend an overnight on Manitou Island. This was my first time on one of the islands. I recall sitting on the end of the dock watching the skies darken as a storm approached in the distance. That storm never reached Manitou, but I watched it all as it slid across the sky, dropping rain everywhere, but not on my head.
Please share an accomplishment from your tenure at APIS that gives you pride.
Working with our facility team, coworkers, and leadership team, to write the project for the Little Sand Bay Visitor Center. I was able to see that project develop from conception all the way through to completion. It took the APIS village of staff, local community support, regional involvement, and guidance from the Denver Service Center to bring this project to completion.
If you could return to just one place in APIS, where would you go? Why?
That’s a tough one….I love the many places of the Apostles, the superior lake, and the memories of solitude bring me calm; however, what I would like to return to is the people, to gather together one more time and catch up on each other’s lives.
Heidi Van Dunk is currently the facility manager at Flagstaff Area National Monuments in Arizona. We want to thank Heidi for her entry into our 50th Anniversary Lakeshore Logbook. We look forward to sharing more Logbook entries with you in the coming weeks. You can find the whole series here.