Our Work

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Our Pillars

As diverse as the islands themselves and the people who love them, our work at Friends reaches across a wide spectrum of projects and issues all focused on the four guiding pillars of our organization.

Person stick image with arms outstretched Accessibility

National parks belong to all of us. Our strong partnership with the National Park Service, business partners, and organizations is removing barriers for people of all abilities to explore the Apostle Islands. Our Access for All campaign is helping to fund an accessible ramp at Meyers Beach (scheduled for 2025) and other accessibility projects. We’ve also funded the all-accessible Stockton Island amphitheater, a viewing stand at Little Sand Bay and included accessibility tools on our website. The need to enhance park accessibility for all is a major goal of Friends and the National Park Service and is an important focus of our work.

Orange LeafEducation

The heart of our parks is the people who explore them, learn about them, love them, and then work to protect them. If the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is to thrive in the face of changing times, we must work to keep (or make) the park relevant to both current and future generations. Friends works to connect with all demographics including those who have yet to experience our national parks to ensure a strong base of park users, park supporters, and park lovers through our support of programs like Stewards of Tomorrow, and Island School. We also offer adult education through programs, publications, outreach, podcasts, and more.

Three people head and shoulder outline Service

To love a place is to give back. Friends offers our members a wide variety of ways to give back to the islands. Plant beach grass on the Raspberry Island sandspits or mainland beaches to prevent erosion, tend the historic gardens at the Michigan Island Lighthouse or the Gaylord A. Nelson garden on the headquarters grounds, build bat houses, participate in litter pickups to keep trash out of the lake and off our islands, educate beach walkers about the fragility of nesting piping plovers, help with public outreach at events, all of these and more help you help the islands you love.

Hand with two leaves aboveStewardship

How do we preserve history in the park? How do we ensure that others can experience the dark skies or diversity of wildlife for generations to come? We become stewards of this place. Friends works with the park to provide funding for projects like the restoration of historic structures, purchasing bear boxes to keep both campers and wildlife safe, exploring the role of Citizen Science projects in the park, purchasing solar shares for the new Visitor Center at Little Sand Bay to lower its carbon footprint, and considering a Dark Sky designation to keep the stars shining bright. We all have a hand in the future. Help us use it wisely.

Sailboats in the Apostle Islands - Jeff Rennicke

Safe boating is informed boating

Wave Watch is a partnership with UW-Madison and the National Park Service to deploy a system of 5-8 solar-powered buoys in the Apostle Islands, giving kayakers, sailors, and power boaters real-time wave and wind information refreshed every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Real information when you need it most.

Help us return the buoys to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in the summer of 2024 and beyond.

Apostle Islands Starry Skies Initiative logo featuring silhouette of Honeymoon Rock and a starlit dark sky

Starry Skies Initiative

The Apostle Islands Starry Skies Initiative, launching in 2024, seeks to protect night sky resources in and around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore through the identification and monitoring of light pollution, public outreach, increasing awareness, and a potential designation for the Apostle Islands as an International Dark Sky Park through the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

You can help keep those stars shining bright.

Our Projects

Friends works closely with the staff of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to coordinate projects that most benefit the park and with the help of members like you ensure the quality of our park far into the future.

Click each of the tabs displayed below to learn more about projects related to our four pillars.

Accessibility

Access for All project funding secured, construction of Meyers Beach ramp planned for 2025

Access for All project funding secured, construction of Meyers Beach ramp planned for 2025

Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke announced today, June 4, 2024, that the full funding for our Access for All project has been secured. “The $325,000 you helped Friends raise has been matched by $350,000 through the National Park Foundation, corporate sponsors and other sources to make it possible to move forward on the landmark Meyers Beach ramp project,” Rennicke said in making the announcement.

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

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

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.”

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Wisconsin Sea Grant climate and tourism outreach specialist supports Access for All

Wisconsin Sea Grant climate and tourism outreach specialist supports Access for All

“It’s obvious that there’s a lot of thought and passion that’s gone into the work, and it was really cool to see it personally. . . We’re trying to help increase access to coastal spaces so that people can come to the lakeshore, learn about the Great Lakes and experience it for themselves. Supporting efforts like these falls within our mission of outreach and education, and also promoting the sustainable use of the Great Lakes, as well.”

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Education

Bird’s-eye view: What 50 years of research reveals about waterbirds in the Apostle Islands

Bird’s-eye view: What 50 years of research reveals about waterbirds in the Apostle Islands

2024 is a milestone year for the waterbirds of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and for the scientists who study them. It is also a time for concern as some waterbird populations are now significantly smaller than they’ve been over the past half century. Others are simply gone.

The Apostle Islands have served as nesting areas for herring gulls, ring-billed gulls, common terns, black terns, cormorants and great blue herons. These birds are colonial, meaning that they typically nest in colonies or groups. As rugged and remote as most of the islands are, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources scientist Sumner Matteson told Friends board member Neil Howk that he’s seeing a decline for every colonial waterbird species in the Apostles. The question is why. The possible explanations vary by species.

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Beauty from above: A winter hike on the Lakeshore trail

Beauty from above: A winter hike on the Lakeshore trail

It has been a winter of extremes: the warmest December on record in many parts of the northland, historically low ice coverage on Lake Superior, and then the plummeting temperatures of mid-January. There were windless days on end with the lake barely rippled and then a storm bringing gusts up to 53 miles an hour at Devils Island churning the lake into waves of 12 to 15 feet.
There is beauty in extremes, the kind of beauty that can turn a hike into a journey through a landscape of enchantment.

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Bayfield’s Carnegie Library embraces dark sky protection with planned lighting changes

Bayfield’s Carnegie Library embraces dark sky protection with planned lighting changes

Bayfield Carnegie Library’s motto is “A compass for curious minds.” One of the primary goals of library director Teresa Weber is to enlighten the public. Right now, Teresa is also trying to “enlighten” the walkways leading to the library without negatively impacting the dark skies over the city. Teresa recently spoke with Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore board member Neil Howk about this upcoming project. Neil also serves on the library board.

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Hand with two leaves above

Stewardship

Wave Watch buoys are live! Watch the deployment video and learn how the buoys can help you stay safe on the water

Wave Watch buoys are live! Watch the deployment video and learn how the buoys can help you stay safe on the water

On the morning of May 29th, a team loaded a National Park Service boat with buoys, anchor lines, hardware and high-visibility flags, then set out from Roy’s Point for the north end of Long Island – the entrance to Chequamegon Bay. There, they deployed the first solar-powered spotter buoy for the 2024 season, as part of the Wave Watch boater safety project. In this story, you’ll learn how a series of high-tech buoys collect that data and how you can access the information as simply as scanning a QR Code with your cell phone.

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Know before you go: Get your free Wave Watch QR code cling for the upcoming boating season

Know before you go: Get your free Wave Watch QR code cling for the upcoming boating season

One scan of this new Wave Watch QR Code and you’ll be safer on the water this boating season. Friends of the Apostle Islands has partnered with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the National Park Service to create Wave Watch, a series of strategically placed weather buoys offering boaters free, real-time wind and wave data for five popular boating locations in the Apostle Islands starting in June of 2024.

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Dark Sky Week: from the first lighthouse beacon to the starry skies of today and beyond

Dark Sky Week: from the first lighthouse beacon to the starry skies of today and beyond

Now, 15 years after Weller and his team made that first, iconic image, he reflects on the first time he experienced the star-filled skies above Outer Island. “I had never seen skies like that. It was not lost on me that we were looking at sky that people a hundred years ago… a thousand years ago… would see.” Weller thinks back to the mariners who navigated Lake Superior by the stars before the first lighthouses helped to guide them through stormy seas. “That line from the hymn Amazing Grace echos in my mind immediately. “I once was lost but now I am found.”

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Service

Friends volunteers prepare Gaylord Nelson Memorial Garden for a vibrant summer display

Friends volunteers prepare Gaylord Nelson Memorial Garden for a vibrant summer display

The Gaylord Nelson Memorial Garden outside of National Park Service headquarters in Bayfield is ready to put on a vibrant show this summer, thanks to volunteers with Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The volunteers gathered on a sunny day in late May to remove weeds, invasive species and debris from the prior growing season, to give the desired plant species the room to grow and bloom.

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Friends volunteers complete Earth Day Community Clean-Up

Friends volunteers complete Earth Day Community Clean-Up

Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore volunteers gathered outside of National Park Service Headquarters in Bayfield on a brisk, cloudy Saturday morning to help keep trash out of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. They enjoyed hot coffee and fresh scones before heading out to collect trash. They filled more than a dozen bags by the time their work was done.

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Connecting people and the Apostle Islands to Costa Rican parks

Connecting people and the Apostle Islands to Costa Rican parks

Ten Bayfield area volunteers, including “Friends” Board members Neil Howk and Mark Peterson, recently completed two-weeks of conservation work on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula as a product of an agreement between Lake Superior’s national parks and Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC).

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