The National Park Service has issued a final environmental assessment decision endorsing plans for an accessible ramp at Meyers Beach and new trails at Little Sand Bay, which include Mashkiig (wetland) Boardwalk, Nelson Cabin Trail, and Minisi (island) Overlook Trail. The Park Service decision, which you can read here, said the project does not significantly impair cultural, historic and ethnographic resources, soils and topography, vegetation, viewsheds and visual Resources or water resources. This decision is another step toward making these projects a reality.
The Park Service said proceeding with the projects support the objectives of providing “recreational, interpretive, and educational opportunities meeting the various abilities of park visitors on the mainland, while increasing tribal connections, safety, and resource protection.”
The document also said “this alternative was selected after careful analysis of potential impacts to resources and to the visitor experience, and in consultation with associated tribes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and review and consideration of public comments.”
The initial environmental assessment comment period drew 58 public comments; 51 comments supported the proposals while 7 raised concerns.
In response to comments about the ramp project, the Park Service said the current conceptual design for the ramp, (funded by Friends of the Apostle Islands) was used to help analyze the environmental impacts of the project. More detailed final designs will be developed in a future phase. Those designs may include options such as kayak rails and kayak carts. The location of the planned overlook will also be determined during the design and construction phase of the project. The design team will consider recommendations received from the public as part of that process.
In response to comments about the Little Sand Bay trail proposal and its impact on tribal rights and treaties, the Park Service said, “We share your concerns about maintaining privacy on Tribal lands, honoring Treaty Rights, and encouraging respectful behaviors by park visitors… We will continue our consultation with Tribal leadership as this project progresses.” The Park Service says the Red Cliff Band continues to be supportive of both proposed projects.
A comment period for this final “Finding of No Significant Impact” decision runs through September 2, 2023. Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore endorses the decision and continues to raise funds for the Meyer’s Beach ramp as part of its Access for All initiative. Executive Director Jeff Rennicke says “We appreciate our partnership with the park and the shared goal of making the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore more accessible to people of all abilities. We also thank our supporters who are investing their energy and dollars in making the Meyers Beach ramp a reality . We look forward to next steps in the process.”