Annual cruise connects Friends supporters with the islands, accomplishments and what’s next

Guests on the 2023 annual Friends cruise arrive at Stockton Island

August 13, 2023

“This was a trip of imagination. It was a trip of gratitude.” That’s how Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Executive Director Jeff Rennicke summed up the 2023 annual cruise.

Superior Princess at the dock in Bayfield
Friends Cruise guests arrive at Stockton Island

60 Friends supporters boarded the Superior Princess in Bayfield for the catered cruise to Stockton Island, where they enjoyed some inspiring conversation and gained first-hand exposure to ongoing efforts to make the park more accessible for people of all abilities, as well as the natural beauty of the island.

Rennicke chose the accessible amphitheater at Presque Isle to thank supporters for the progress made so far.

He said, “We are grateful for all of you and others who have made this place a reality, now let’s imagine the next step. What about a 520-foot three-percent grade going down to Meyers Beach. I can see it now! Or… extending the boardwalk on Sand Island so it goes from East Bay all the way to the Sand Island Lighthouse.”

Jeff begins the presentation at the Stockton Island amphitheater
Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke talks about imagination and gratitude

Friends board member and former board president Erica Peterson talked about her personal connection to making the amphitheater a reality. “My history goes back 40 years when I was a naturalist out here on Stockton. This spot was the center of all of my campfire programs and it was a mud pit.”

She said the location, now named maawanji’ i ding (a place where we all come together) was later determined to be an important archaeological site. The amphitheater, funded by Friends, was built in a way to protect the ground below it, while creating an accessible meeting place connected by boardwalk to the Presque Isle dock and to an accessible campsite.

Erica Peterson tells about the history of the amphitheater

maawanji’ i ding (a place where we all come together)

“For me,” she said, “this is the heart of the Apostle Islands. When you take a walk through this near-climax forest and you wind up over to Julian Bay, you put yourself in a different world. And when you take that walk with a naturalist or a ranger, you go home a different person.”

Peterson said, “I know (accessibility advocate) Janet Badura has talked about how it changes your life. You put kids through an experience on the island, and we frequently have kids with handicaps, they go home a different person. And that’s the kind of experience that we want everybody to be able to have. Not through all the islands – it is wilderness – but especially this part of the islands here.”

Park Superintendent Lynne Dominy also thanked Friends. “Thank you for being part of the effort here in the Apostle Islands, making our islands accessible for all, and the sites along the mainland. And for caring about removing the barriers for everyone that’s trying to come and have a really meaningful experience in the Apostle Islands and in our other public land areas. We appreciate you being here tonight.”

Park Superintendent Lynne Dominy thanks friends for our support

Following the presentation at the amphitheater, many in the group made the short hike to Julian Bay, on a nature walk led by Peterson. Some were lucky enough to see a black bear crossing the bog in the distance.

Naturalist Erica Peterson leads a nature hike on the way to Julian Bay.

Naturalist Erica Peterson leads a nature hike

Nature hikers explore the trail to Julian Bay

Hiking to the singing sands of Julian Bay

Others toured the boardwalk and accessible campsite, where Friends board member Neil Howk talked about the accessible campsite and unique hardware that enables campers to anchor their tents by passing stainless steel anchors through the slots in the platform and turning them 90 degrees. Howk also showed his group evidence of bear activity, including an old bear den.

Neil Howk talks about the accessible campsite including elevated platform and unique tent anchors
Neil Howk talks about the accessible campsite including elevated platform and unique tent anchors
Tent anchors take the place of tent stakes
Exploring the accessible campsite on Stockton Island

Neil Howk discusses the benefits of the accessible campsite

Rennicke left the group with a parting thought as they left the amphitheater for the rest of the evening. “Think of all of the obstacles, one by one that we can recognize and find a way to overcome, so the phrase “Access for All” is not a slogan – it becomes a reality. Enjoy the evening on the island. Enjoy what’s here now but think of what we can do together.”

We trust that everyone did enjoy the evening and look forward to your continued support. We want to thank everyone who joined us for this year’s cruise, everyone who made the event possible, and the photographers who captured the memorable moments: board members Bob Jauch, Mark Weller and Jon Okerstrom. We hope you had a wonderful time.

Memorable moments from the 2023 Friends of the Apostle Islands cruise

A spectacular setting sun over Presque Isle harbor provided a fitting ending to our time on the island. If you would like to join us for next year’s cruise, watch our website. And if you would like to support Access for All right now, you can learn more about it here.

Sunset over Presque Isle Harbor on Stockton Island

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