Plans for an accessible ramp at the popular Meyers Beach kayak launch take a significant step forward in April, as the National Park Service publishes a draft Environmental Assessment and asks for public comment for the next 30 days. The 54-page document says, “Providing an Architectural Barriers Act-compliant ramp would provide long-term, beneficial impacts to visitor experience via access to the beach and primary kayak launching location to the mainland sea caves, increase safety and improve capacity for visitors of all abilities. “
“This is an important step in achieving Access for All, according to Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Executive Director Jeff Rennicke. “As the official philanthropic partner to the park, our Access for All campaign to raise $325,000 is well under way. That money, plus a planned 1:1 match will fund the project and we’re glad to see the park announce this milestone in the planning process.”
Paddlers navigate the current Meyers Beach stairs – NPS photo
Meyers Beach offers the only kayak access to the park’s popular Mainland sea caves. Currently, the only access to the beach from the parking lot is a single, steep stairway, which limits access to many, even though kayaking is a sport that can provide freedom to those with mobility challenges.
The Park Service says if funding is approved, the accessible beach ramp will be on the west side of the park’s Mainland Unit. “The proposed ramp will allow more people to access the beach and improve kayak transport to and from.”
The report says, “The project would include the removal of the primary stairway along with the construction of two 12-foot-wide stairways to improve access. The new routes to the beach would reduce existing stairway congestion and increase safety for all users. The alternate for design option 3 includes a 20’ x 20’ overlook that would have a deck height of approximately 10’ over the hillside at its highest. This overlook would provide a visual cue for the location of Meyers Beach from the water as well as provide an overlook of Lake Superior.”
Meyers Beach ramp plans – Click to enlarge
The Environmental Assessment also includes plans for three new trails at Little Sand Bay. About that, the Park Service says, “Little Sand Bay, located on the east side of the park’s Mainland Unit, is a popular area that includes the park’s only shoreline visitor center, historic fishery, and National Park Service marina. Next to the Town of Russell’s Recreational Area and within the Red Cliff Reservation, this highly visited area currently lacks any defined trails.”
Plans for an accessible Mashkiig Boardwalk Trail – NPS
“The proposed trail network will focus visitor use, improve accessibility, increase visitor safety, and protect fragile wetland resources from trampling,” according to the Park Service news release. ”The project, if funded, will include a fully accessible boardwalk with bilingual Ojibwe wayside exhibits, a coastline trail with island views, and a trail that provides access to a historic site and increases safety by providing an alternative to walking down the road. These trails will also increase interpretive and educational opportunities for youth, residents, and other area visitors.”
Little Sand Bay wetland – NPS photo
About the need for both projects, the report says park visitation and the need for more recreational opportunities are increasing. “The Mainland is the only park experience for many visitors. There are currently no trail opportunities at Little Sand Bay and access to the beach from the parking lot at Meyers Beach is not accessible… The purpose of the action is to provide recreational, interpretive, and educational opportunities for visitors of all abilities on the mainland while increasing tribal connections, safety, and resource protection.” The Park Service also says, “The preferred action would not result in significant impacts to any resources within Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.”
“We are vey encouraged by the detailed and thoughtful draft Environmental Assessment report, as well as by the strong support our Access for All campaign has received so far,” says Rennicke. “We encourage Access for All supporters to learn as much as they can about the plans, participate in the public comment period and to support this vital project in every way they can.”
To learn more about these projects, you can attend a virtual open house hosted by the Park Service on April 26, 2023 at 7:00 pm CST via Zoom. To learn more about the project and how to join the online event, visit the park’s Planning Environment & Public Comment (PEPC) project page at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/LsbMbEA. There you can read the draft Environmental Assessment and comment electronically. You can also get links to the Zoom meeting on the Meetings Notice tab and comment. The comment period closes May 12th.
You can download a PDF copy of the document here. You can also get a printed copy at the Bayfield Public Library and mail comments to:
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Attn: Julie Van Stappen
April 2023 EA Comments
P.O. Box 770
Bayfield, Wisconsin 54891
Editor’s note. The public comment period has now ended. Thank you to everyone who commented in support of the projects. We will continue to report on the process and the progress of our Access for All campaign.