52 candles – celebrating Founders Day in the Apostle Islands

Ray of sunlight shining on kayakers in sea cave

Written by Jeff Rennicke

September 23, 2022

September 26th marks 52 years for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and kicks off a new commitment for Friends

It was September 26, 1970. After years of meetings, negotiations, revisions, and debate, there finally came these words: “for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreational use, and enjoyment of the public … there is hereby established the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.”

With those words, Public Law 91-424 officially established the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a place that preserves beauty, adventure, and offers reconnection to nature. The twenty-one islands and 12 miles of mainland shoreline today play a vital role in wildlife habitat, bird breeding areas, fisheries, and keeping alive stories as ancient as the white pine.

Now, each year on September 26th, we celebrate Founder’s Day, the “birthday” of our park. On this Founder’s Day, Friends of the Apostle Islands both honors those who had the foresight and perseverance to protect this place for all of us and looks ahead to the future with a major new initiative: Access for All.

Infinity symbol in green and orange Access for All

We at Friends believe that our national parks do indeed belong to all of us. To help ensure this, we are kicking off a major new initiative to support the National Park Service in its efforts to be sure that as many people as possible can explore and enjoy the Lakeshore. Last year we cut the ribbon on a brand-new accessible amphitheater for ranger talks at Presque Isle on Stockton Island.

We helped to fund an extension to the on-going accessible board walk project on Sand Island aimed at linking the lighthouse on the north end to accessible campsites at East Bay. Much has been done. Much more remains yet to do.

Our Access for All campaign aims to raise the profile of accessibility issues in the Apostle Islands and surrounding communities. Working with an Advisory Board of prominent accessibility professionals and advocates, we are striving to raise $325,000 for an accessible ramp at Meyers Beach to replace the 45 steps down the 23-foot bank to the most popular kayak launching area in the park.

At the bottom of those stairs there is more than just a kayak launching area. Meyers Beach is a spot that gives access to life-changing trips to the famous sea caves. “I am 100 percent certain that trips like this kept me from giving up when I learned of my progressive neurological disorder,” says Annie Hickman, a recent participant in a sea kayaking trip with Wilderness Inquiry. “I pretty much thought my life was over. But paddling here has been a lifechanging experience because it shows that I can still do some of the things I love. It is completely restorative even though I am a puddle when I am done.”

Steep wooden stairway down to Meyers Beach
Conceptual drawing of switchback ramp from the parking lot down to the beach

Proposed design for accessible walkway to Meyers Beach. Click image to enlarge.

Paddlers may always be “a puddle” when they are finish a sea kayaking trip to the caves, but they are also changed, awed, filled with a sense of accomplishment and beauty. Everyone deserves that opportunity. In the words of the legislation that created the national lakeshore 52 years ago today, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is “for the benefit, inspiration, education, recreational use, and enjoyment of the public.” That means everyone.

Let’s give everyone that chance.

As we celebrate the 52nd birthday of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Friends is looking ahead to our “access for All” campaign. Join us to ensure that the word “public” in the legislation that created our park includes everyone and that everyone has the opportunity to experience the life-changing beauty and adventure of the Apostle Islands.

Give the gift of Access for All.


Jeff Rennicke is Executive Director of the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. He is also an educator, outdoor adventure travel writer and photographer.

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