You did it! Access for All campaign goal reached for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Access for All fundraising graphic: $325,000 goal met

November 4, 2023

One more stroke of the paddle and the bow touches the shore. You did it. The long journey is complete.

With your help, Friends of the Apostle Islands has reached its fundraising goal of $325,000 for its Access for All initiative. “It takes all of us to make a difference,” Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke said in announcing the achievement, “and with the help of nearly 200 individual donors and more than a dozen caring, supportive corporate sponsors, we did it together.”

The Access for All campaign is to date the largest effort of its kind in the history of Friends of the Apostle Islands, the official philanthropic partner of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The 18-month-long campaign raised funds for, and awareness of, accessibility issues in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. With Accessibility as one of the organization’s pillars, Friends has already helped the National Park Service construct an all-accessible amphitheater on Stockton Island, helped with the on-going boardwalk project on Sand Island, and funded the construction of an accessible viewing platform on the break wall at Little Sand Bay and more.
Beachgoers head down the 45 steps from the bluff to Meyers Beach - Mark Peterson photo
Navigating the current Meyers Beach stairs

Navigating Meyers Beach stairs

“National Parks belong to all of us,” Rennicke says, “and every barrier we can help remove makes that statement ring even more true.”

This phase of the Access for All campaign focused on access issues at Meyers Beach, a popular mainland unit of the Lakeshore where kayakers and beach walkers are faced with a steep 45-step stairway tumbling down a 23-foot sand bank, a major obstacle to many paddlers and beachcombers alike.

Person exiting a wheelchair and boarding a kayak.
“When I pick up a paddle, I am no more disabled than anyone else,” said Tracy Tabaka, a paddler who uses a wheelchair and who long dreamed of paddling the sea caves from Meyers Beach. “The only problem,” she says, “is all those stairs.”

As a part of this effort, Friends will provide half the construction costs of a new 520-foot ramp with a 3% grade that will make beach access safer for everyone.

Conceptual drawing of switchback ramp from the parking lot down to the beach

Conceptual drawing of Meyers Beach ramp and viewing platform

“There is still much work to be done but this is a big step forward in the effort to support the National Park Service in making the Apostle Islands as safe and accessible as possible,” says Rennicke. “Perhaps most importantly,” he adds, “it proves the commitment of the community, businesses, and park users to the issue of accessibility. People care. The success of this initiative shows that.”
Access for All supporting organization logos

Thanks to these supporting organizations

Projects of this kind are only possible with the help of a generous, caring community. People like Peter Tropman and Virginia Graves. “We made an investment and things got done,” the couple said recently. “Friends is a dedicated and competent organization to work with and they continue to grow. It was satisfying to see an investment on our part get a lot of things started and a lot of things done.”
Eric Larson of Northland Adaptive Recreation (formerly the Courage Kenny Center) echoed those sentiments. “Having helped carry brave people up and down those steps at Meyers Beach for three decades,” Larson said, “I was highly motivated by the work of Friends of the Apostle Islands knowing that we could and should do better in these sorts of accessibility issues.

In the end, however, success in projects such as Access for All is not measured in dollars raised. It is measured in the dreams they can fulfill.

Janet Badara

Janet Badura

“It had always been a dream of mine to kayak the sea caves of Wisconsin’s Apostle Island National Lakeshore,” says Janet Badura, a power wheelchair user and adventurer who assisted in the Access for All initiative.

“I know that I am a more confident, braver and happier person from being part of these adventures. I think I’m a better person, a more engaged, and responsible citizen. I know too that the value I feel as a person has been heightened from these acts of inclusion. We all deserve to be included. We all deserve to feel the power, see the majesty, and be inspired by our ethereal National Parks.

Thanks to the success of Friends of the Apostle Islands and their Access for All campaign, and the work of the National Park Service, the Apostle Islands will soon be a little bit more accessible for all of us, making even more dreams come true.

Read our coverage of the many milestones in the Access for All campaign here. Stay tuned for more details on the progress of this exciting project and further information concerning its timeline.

kayakers at sunset
For more information on Access for All and to learn how you can still make a difference in this and future projects of Friends of the Apostle Islands, check out the Support Us page on our website or call 715-449-6900.
Infinity symbol in green and orange Access for All

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