Access for All

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Photo courtesy of Wilderness Inquiry

 

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.”

Long stairway down to Meyers Beach

Current Meyers Beach Access

You can help change this.

All Those Stairs!

National parks, like the Apostle Islands, belong to all of us. Yet for the 1-in-5 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. 

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
Viewing platform overlooking Lake Superior

Little Sand Bay Viewing Platform

People sitting on the deck of the Stockton Island Amphitheater

Stockton Island Amphitheater

Interpretive sign next to the boat Twilite at Little Sand Bay

Little Sand Bay Interpretive Exhibits

Man in kayak with a wheelchair next to the kayak

Amber Mullen/Wilderness Inquiry

“As a wheelchair user, I believe I am more proud, knowledgeable, happier, and 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, breathe in, and feel.”

Janet Badura

Person exiting a wheelchair and boarding a kayak.

Julia Schweitzer/Wilderness Inquiry

Woman placing stone on driftwood sculpture

Annie Hickman/Wilderness Inquiry

Much Work Remains to be Done

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.

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.

In April of 2023, the National Park Service released a draft environmental assessment on the project, which concludes that the Meyers Beach ramp and companion trail projects at Little Sand Bay will have significant benefits for park users and no significant negative environmental impact. A public comment period was open until May 12th. We will continue to report on next steps.

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.

Let’s make access possible for all of us.

Access for All logo

Advisory Committee Members

Honorary Chairperson

  • Greg Lais – Founder and former Executive Director of Wilderness Inquiry

Committee Chair for Friends

  • Erica Peterson – Friends Board Chair emeritus

Committee Members

  • Jeff Rennicke – Friends Executive Director
  • Kelley Linehan – Friends Board Chair
  • Lynne Dominy – Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Superintendent
  • Bill Botten – Training Coordinator, U.S. Access Board
  • John Boyle – Friends Board Member
  • Sam Cook – Duluth News Tribune (retired)
  • Mike Friis – Wisconsin Coastal Management, Department of Administration
  • Bob Jauch – Wisconsin State Senate (retired) Friends Board Member
  • Eric Larson – Adaptive Sports Supervisor, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Center
  • Larry MacDonald – Bayfield Mayor (ret) and WI Coastal Management Board
  • Katie Napiwocki – Writer, Accessibility Advocate, Bloom Consulting
  • John Needen-Durst – Assistive Technology & Benefits Specialist, INDIGO Wisconsin
  • John Nousaine – North Country Independent Living (retired)
  • Jill Nyberg – Executive Director, INDIGO Wisconsin
  • Jon Okerstrom – Friends Board Member
  • Erika Rivers – Executive Director Wilderness Inquiry
  • Daniel Skenderian, PhD – Clinical Psychologist, Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Health Care
  • Cheryl Schiltz – Author, Silencing the Noise of Disability
  • John Strattee – Pine Forest Lodge
  • Peter Tropman/Virginia Graves – Black Spruce Fund
  • Patrick Walters – Wickcraft Boardwalks
  • Mark Weller – Friends of the Apostle Islands Vice Chair & Board Member
Conceptual drawing of switchback ramp from the parking lot down to the beach

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 beauty experienced in these islands available to everyone. Invest in Access for All with Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

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.

“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

Friends Logo White no text

With Your Help

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 | info@friendsoftheapostleislands.org.

Access for All Media Coverage and Resources

Click each item to view.

Basswood Island - Accessible features, camping, dock, hiking, popular

Bear Island - Camping

Cat Island - Camping

Devils Island - Camping, dock, hiking, lighthouse, popular

Eagle Island - No amenities

Gull Island - No amenities

Hermit Island - Camping

Ironwood Island - Camping

Little Sand Bay: Mainland - Accessible features, dock, mainland, popular, visitor center

Long Island - Dock, hiking, lighthouse

Manitou Island - Camping, dock, hiking

Meyers Beach: Mainland - Camping, hiking, mainland, popular

Michigan Island - Accessible features, camping, dock, hiking, lighthouse, popular

North Twin Island - Camping

Oak Island - Camping, dock, hiking, popular

Otter Island - Camping, dock, hiking

Outer Island - Camping, dock, hiking, lighthouse

Park Headquarters: Mainland - Accessible features, mainland, popular, visitor center

Raspberry Island - Dock, hiking, lighthouse, popular

Rocky Island - Camping, dock, hiking

Sand Island - Accessible features, camping, dock, hiking, lighthouse, popular

South Twin Island - Camping, dock, hiking

Stockton Island - Accessible features, camping, dock, hiking, popular, visitor center

York Island - Camping