An Earth Day letter to you from the daughter of Gaylord Nelson

Tia Nelson and Friends logo - Kevin J. Miyazaki photo

April 20, 2023

Dear Friends of the Apostle Islands:

In 1970, my father Gaylord Nelson was at the heart of two major movements in this country – the founding of Earth Day and the legislative designation of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin. Both efforts to celebrate and protect the life-sustaining and life-enhancing wonders of our planet were bound by his undying commitment to inclusion. I believe they are connected.

Gaylord and Tia Nelson

Tia and Gaylord Nelson – Ked Martin photo

With Earth Day, dad changed the way all of us view and celebrate the planet we live on. By protecting this soul-stirring place, what he called “this unique collection of islands,” he helped ensure that there would always be a place for us and future generations to walk the beaches, visit the lighthouses, kayak the caves, and sail the island breezes of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Both were aimed at urging people to work towards, share, and enjoy a better and healthier planet, for all of us.

It is in the spirit of that sense of inclusion that I ask you on Earth Day to support the Access for All initiative of Friends of the Apostle Islands.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as one in four Americans, some 61 million people, have a disability that impacts their major life activities. These mobility constraints, sight and hearing issues, and cognitive challenges can make visiting and enjoying a place like the Apostle Islands difficult or even impossible without accommodation. That’s where Access for All comes in.

As the official philanthropic partner of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Friends of the Apostle Islands is using the Access for All initiative to raise funds and awareness in support of a host of accessibility projects in the park. This includes over two miles of boardwalks on Sand Island, accessible campsites and an amphitheater on Stockton Island, tactile and audio interpretive signs at Little Sand Bay and the Michigan Island Lighthouse, and replacing the forty-five-step stairway to the popular Meyers Beach with a wheelchair accessible ramp.

Montage of images, Friends logo and Access for All logo


My father once said that in all his environmental efforts including Earth Day and protecting the Apostle Islands, “Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality, and mutual respect for all other human beings.” Thirty-three years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Access for All is the right thing to do. These accessible projects can be the difference between the trip of a lifetime and a lifetime of being left behind for millions of Americans. On this, the fifty-third Earth Day, it is another way of keeping the promise that national parks, like the earth itself, belong to all of us.

Happy Earth Day,

Tia Nelson signature

To learn more or support the Access for All initiative, contact Friends of the Apostle Islands, P.O. Box 1574, Bayfield, WI 54814 (715)449-6900 or click the button below:

Infinity symbol in green and orange Access for All

Tia Nelson photo at the top of the page by Kevin J. Miyazaki

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