Access for All

kayak bow pointed out from under a sea cave toward a distant island on a calm Lake Superior.

“When I pick up a paddle,
I am no more disabled than anyone else.”

Tracy Tabaka looks out at the blue horizons of Lake Superior. There, just beyond the Meyers Beach parking area, lie the green jewels of the wild Apostle Islands, the famous sea caves. She smiles, thinking of the freedom she will feel with a paddle in her hands, the wind in her face. She has been dreaming of this moment for years. 

But that smile fades as she looks down at the barrier before her — 45 steps tumbling down the 23-foot bank to the launching area below – and then at her wheelchair. “When I pick up a paddle, I am no more disabled than anyone else,” she has said of that moment. “The only real difficulty is all those stairs.”

“All those stairs.”

National parks, like the Apostle Islands, belong to all of us. Yet for the one in five Americans like Tracy who live with mobility challenges, “all those stairs” can spell the difference between the adventure of a lifetime and a lifetime of being left behind. 

You can help change that. 

The First Steps

A 2012 “Accessibility Self-Evaluation,” made clear both the challenges and opportunities facing the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in its effort to become more accessible. Since then, the NPS in partnership with Friends of the Apostle Islands, has made much progress:

  • 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
  • Audio and tactile interpretative materials at Visitor Centers and online
Little Sand Bay Platform
Little Sand Bay viewing platform
Stockton Island Amphitheater
Interpretive Exhibits

The first steps have been taken. Yet much remains to be done. 

The Trail Ahead for Everyone

With the establishment of the Access for All Fund campaign, Friends of the Apostle Islands, the official philanthropic partner of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, seeks to increase its support of the projects making our park more accessible to everyone. Our goal of $325,000 in our Access for All campaign will strengthen the park’s ability to implement projects that may otherwise go unfunded for decades, opening key areas of the park for use by a wider range of visitors, removing “all those stairs” as a barrier. 

Photo by Amber Mullen/Wilderness Inquiry
Photo by Annie Hickman/Wilderness Inquiry

The main focus of Access for All is a proposed a 520-foot accessible ramp gently traversing the hillside leading to a scenic overlook and providing handrail free access to the kayak launching area at Meyers Beach and beyond. With Friends raising $325,000 to leverage matching funds provided by the National Park Service, we can open one of the most beautiful and popular areas of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to everyone strengthening our commitment to the belief that our park truly belongs to all of us.

Conceptual drawing of Meyers Beach accessible ramp

But there are “all those stairs” kinds of barriers in other places as well. Your support will help the park as it continues construction of boardwalks on Sand Island, builds more accessible campsites and docks, and increases access to vital park interpretive information for those with hearing or vision challenges both in the park and online. 

With distant islands, sheer cliffs, and big blue waters, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore can seem impossible for some but let’s invest in making it possible, in making the freedom and the beaty experienced in these islands available to everyone. Invest in Access for All with Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Let’s make the impossible, possible for all of us.

“Nature is not flat. She didn’t have a level when she created the wilderness and that is part of the challenge. I have balance issues. I fall over a lot. But once you are in a kayak, it is not an issue and these trips let me experience the wilderness that I appreciate so much.”

Patrick McGuigan

“As a wheelchair user, I believe I am a more proud, knowledgeable, happier, and a braver person through this integration of living and learning through our national parks. Access to the Apostle Islands is an experience all should be able to see, breath in, and feel.”

 Janet Badura

With Your Help

There are many ways to help – a recurring monthly donation, a matching fund pledge, planned giving, gifts of stock. Every donation helps remove a barrier. Friends of the Apostle Islands believes that our national parks belong to all of us. With your help, they can.

To be a part of the solution. Join the Access For All campaign by making a donation now, or by contacting us at P.O. Box 1574, Bayfield, WI 54814 (715)449-6900 or

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