Friends endorses Meyers Beach ramp, Little Sand Bay trails, encourages you to show your support before comment period ends

Voice your support by May 12th - Jeff Rennicke photo

May 2, 2023

With the public comment period winding down, now is the time to show the National Park Service your support for Access for All and the exciting Meyers Beach accessible ramp project, as well as a companion project that includes a new trail system at Little Sand Bay. You only have until May 12th to add your voice on the National Park Service website.

Last month, the Park Service published a draft Environmental Assessment covering both projectsThe 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. “ You can read more about the plans here.

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.”

The folowing slides are from the online open house event on April 26th.

Infinity symbol in green and orange Access for All

Demonstrated community support is one factor the Park Service will use to determine the future of the projects. Friends of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore and a team of supporters are actively raising money towards an ambitious goal of $325,000 and securing the planned 1:1 matching funds to build the Meyers Beach accessible ramp,. You can help by donating – and by writing in support of the project by filling out this online form.

Read the Friends public comment below, then add your personal story about what these projects mean to you and why you support them. Your voice matters. Do it today.

To Whom It May Concern:

Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is in full support of Alternative B (preferred alternative) of the Environmental Assessment to create an accessible ramp at Meyers Beach and a new trail network at Little Sand Bay within the ApostleIslands National Lakeshore.

In a park consisting of 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland shore, Little Sand Bay and Meyers Beach are the premier mainland visitor facilities in the Apostle IslandsNational Lakeshore. As such, they play a vital role in the visitor experience. Both proposed projects will enhance the safety and enjoyment of a significant percentage of the 290,000 annual visitors to the park.

As the busiest single access point for kayakers exploring the mainland sea caves, and the trailhead location for the Lakeshore Trail, Meyers Beach is an important gateway facility. The current steep stairway consisting of 45-steps down a 23-foot bank has been identified as a major obstacle to safe, accessible enjoyment of Meyers Beach and to paddling the well-known sea caves for everyone, including the one-in-five Americans who live with mobility challenges. One such user, Tracy Tabaka, a paddler and wheelchair user, states “When I pick up a paddle, I am no more disabledthan anyone else. The only real difficulty is all those stairs.”

In Alternative B (proposed alternative) “All those stairs” will be replaced with a 520-foot ABA-compliant ramp with scenic overlooks and a 3 percent grade. The creation of this ramp would represent a vital improvement in providing easier and safer access to the kayak launching area below and to one of the premier beach sites onthe mainland. The accessible ramp is the next logical step to augment the improved parking, picnicking, and trailhead facilities constructed at the site in recent years. It will provide protection for vegetation on the steep bank, allow for the creation of an overlook for those wishing to enjoy the scenic vistas, and provide more functional access for those seeking to experience the beach or launch kayaks to explore the caves.

“We all deserve to be included in the outdoors,” says Janet Badura, another adventurer and wheelchair user who has long hoped to kayak the caves. “We all deserve to feel the power, see the majesty and be inspired by our ethereal National Parks.” The creation of the Meyers Beach access ramp will be an important steptoward ensuring that everyone can do exactly that. As the official philanthropicpartner of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Friends of the Apostle Islands iscommitted to doing all that our organization can to support the park in thecompletion of this vital project.

The proposed trail system expansion at Little Sand Bay is the perfect companion project to the Meyers Beach ramp. Where the ramp is aimed at those who experience the park by kayaking, the proposed action at Little Sand Bay targets those who wishto hike and experience the varied shoreline ecosystems by trail. The accessible boardwalks, the bilingual Ojibwe interpretive signs and exhibits, and the creation of easy access to the historic Hokenson Fishery as well as to the too-often-overlooked Nelson Cabin, will significantly increase recreational and interpretive opportunitiesfor all visitors, and potentially lead to increased connections with the local tribes.

Friends was proud to play a small part in the historically important flag-raisingceremony held at Little Sand Bay in June of 2021 when the flag of the Red Cliff Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa was given a permanent place in the park. It is our hope that the proposed trail expansion at Little Sand Bay will be seen as another act of cooperation, partnership, and inclusion with the tribal partners.

As the focal point of the mainland sections of the park, Little Sand Bay and Meyers Beach are the most highly visited and publicly recognized areas within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. As such, they are key components of the public’s enjoyment and perception of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a park that contributes over $50 million to the local economy and is an invaluable resource for pride in the community and beyond as most recently reflected in a feature story published in the March 2023 issue of National Geographic. Friends of the Apostle Islands feels that both proposed projects – the Meyers Beach accessible ramp and the new trail system at Little Sand Bay – will be important additions to the safety and enjoyment of the park and therefore is in full support of Alternative B (preferred alternative).

— Jeff Rennicke, Executive Director

Submitted on behalf of Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on May 2, 2023

Meyers Beach Kayakers

Kaykers at Meyers Beach – Jon Okerstrom photo

The public comment period on the draft environmental impact report closes May 12th. From there, the proposal undergoes regional review. At that level a finding will be made on whether the recommended projects pose no significant environmental impact (FONSI/DONI) and may proceed to the next step.

Public comments are considered in the decision-making process. This is why we need your voice online. You can also mail comments directly to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Attn: Julie Van Stappen, April 2023 EA Comments, P.O. Box 770, Bayfield, Wisconsin 54891. Those comments must also be received by the May 12th deadline.

The Park Service says the FONSI/DONI decision and rationale will be made this month and published and open for public comment in May and June.

Friends will continue to advocate for these projects and will share information as we get it. We want to thank everyone who has contributed to Access for All so far and encourage you to tell the Park Service now why you support these worthy projects.

Infinity symbol in green and orange Access for All

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. 

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