Supporters urged to “dream of what the Apostle Islands could become” during Madison Access for All event

Jeff Rennicke starts his presentation, "These Islands & Accessible Dreams"

June 28, 2023

Dreams of a more accessible Apostle Islands National Lakeshore met reality as dozens gathered at Rutabaga Paddlesports in Madison for an Access for All event. The gathering brought together donors, potential donors, Friends members and anyone interested in the Apostle Islands for an evening of food and conversation. Representatives from Senator Tammy Baldwin and the Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreation attended the event to learn more about the Access for All campaign.

Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Executive Director Jeff Rennicke told the supporters to celebrate the progress made so far in making the northern Wisconsin park more accessible to people with differing abilities, and to dream about what the future could hold if we all work together.

Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke starts the multimedia presentation

Jeff shared a timeline of accessibility accomplishments in the park, which now include a wheelchair accessible overlook on the dock at Little Sand Bay, accessible campsites, restrooms, and more than a mile of boardwalk on Sand Island, an accessible amphitheater and campsite on Stockton Island, and audio and tactile interpretative materials at Visitor Centers and online.

He also urged support for the biggest project yet – replacing the aging wooden staircase at Meyers Beach with an accessible ramp that will enable people of varying abilities to more easily get to the beach, which is the main access point for paddling the mainland sea caves.

Jeff shared a message from Park Superintendent Lynne Dominy: “Supporting accessibility is an investment in everyone’s future. As we age, we have different needs for mobility, vision, hearing, and overall access. I used a stroller with my children, a wheelchair after a car accident, and now I find that ramps and rails just make all kinds of experiences easier for me and others. I hope that everyone will join us in our efforts to make Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands more accessible to all.”

Jeff also shared the stories of two people with disabilities who support this project – one who dreams of kayaking the sea caves and another who says despite the challenges of the current staircase, the experience changed her life for the better. Rennicke said, “That’s why we’re doing this. The parks belong to all of us.”

Meyers Beach Ramp Plan - NPS

Artist’s rendering of Meyers Beach ramp – click to enlarge

To date, Access for All donors have contributed almost half of the $325,000 fundraising goal set by Friends of the Apostle Islands. The National Park Service is actively pursuing several different potential sources of matching funding. Planning for the project is well under way, with the Draft Environmental Assessment and associated public comment period completed and under review.

The Madison event, hosted by Rutabaga Paddlesports, is one in a series of events designed to raise money and awareness. Executive Director Rennicke says it accomplished both goals.

Event photographs – click to enlarge

We want to thank everyone who donated during the event and those who will donate in the days to come. Thanks also to Rutabaga Owner Darren Bush for offering to match the first $500 raised during the event and Wickcraft Boardwalks for providing the food and beverages.

Rutabaga Paddlesports owner Darren Bush

Darren Bush, Rutabaga Paddlesports

The Wickcraft Boardwalks crew

The Wickcraft Boardwalks crew

Photographs by Friends Board Member Mark Weller

If you would like to support to Access for All, you can donate now on our website. And watch for a Friends booth at Meyers Beach this summer. We’ll be sharing information about this exciting project with paddlers and other park visitors.

Access for All logo

You may also like…