Our Work

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On this page:  Our Pillars | Our Projects 

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

Statewide radio audience learns about Access for All in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Statewide radio audience learns about Access for All in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Rennicke told the audience, on the radio and online, that “we are about half way in our fundraising efforts. We’d like to get them done by the end of October and you can help us do that by helping us with our Access for All initiative.” You can donate here. Dominy said the goal is to match the money Friends is raising with money from the National Park Service or its partners. “We’re hoping to raise enough money to make that match at the end of this summer, so we can move this project forward and and potentially fund it next year to get it fixed,” she said. 

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Supporters urged to “dream of what the Apostle Islands could become” during Madison Access for All event

Supporters urged to “dream of what the Apostle Islands could become” during Madison Access for All event

Dreams of a more accessible Apostle Islands National Lakeshore met reality as dozens gathered at Rutabaga Paddlesports in Madison for an Access for All event. The gathering brought together donors, potential donors, Friends members and anyone interested in the Apostle Islands for an evening of food and conversation. Representatives from Senator Tammy Baldwin and the Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreation attended the event to learn more about the Access for All campaign.

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Access for All special event! Join us in Madison on June 27th

Access for All special event! Join us in Madison on June 27th

Friends of the Apostle Islands is working to support the accessibility projects of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore through its Access for All initiative. This free gathering on Tuesday, June 27th from 6:00pm to 7:30pm will both celebrate what has already been accomplished and let you know how you can add your support to major new accessibility features within the park including a 520-foot wheelchair accessible ramp at the popular Meyers Beach kayak launch. Come see the new home of Rutabaga Paddlesports. Come talk paddling in the Apostle Islands. Come help make one of the country’s best paddling destinations even more accessible for all. Join the fun and make a difference, for everyone.

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Education

A conversation with Ojibwe Education Park Ranger Peyton Martinson

A conversation with Ojibwe Education Park Ranger Peyton Martinson

In August, 2023, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, in partnership with Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, announced Peyton Martinson as the newly appointed park ranger cultural educator for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. 
Neil Howk recently sat down with Peyton to get to know her a bit better.

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Join us for “Apostle Islands in National Geographic: the story behind the story”

Join us for “Apostle Islands in National Geographic: the story behind the story”

The March issue of National Geographic magazine celebrates Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore with the kind of global exposure few other publications can match. “Return to Wild Waters” describes the Islands as a “sublime, yet dangerous playground for kayakers, sailors and powerboaters to explore.” And on March 30th at 7 p.m., you’ll be able to experience the story behind the story during a special online event.

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Full Circle: Second and third grade students from Georgia visit the Apostle Islands on a virtual tour of our national parks

Full Circle: Second and third grade students from Georgia visit the Apostle Islands on a virtual tour of our national parks

With Education as one of our pillars, opportunities to learn and teach others about the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore have always been an important part of the mission of Friends. Recently, Executive Director Jeff Rennicke, a former teacher himself, had the chance to speak by Zoom to the second and third grade students of Ms. Hildebrandt’s class from High Meadows School in Roswell, Georgia.

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Hand with two leaves above

Stewardship

Giving Tuesday 2022 – Access for All

Giving Tuesday 2022 – Access for All

Friends of the Apostle Islands is asking your support in the biggest capital campaign in our organization’s history aimed at supporting the ongoing efforts of the National Park Service to remove barriers to the park – from replacing those forty-five steps at the Meyers Beach launching site with an all-accessible ramp, to continuing the boardwalk project on Sand Island, to ensuring the latest technology on interpretive signs and our website.

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The power of one: Paul Blanchard

The power of one: Paul Blanchard

If you were out at Sand Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore this summer, you likely saw (and probably heard) the National Park Service crew hard at work hauling planks, pounding nails, tightening bolts, working on an addition to the long-term boardwalk...

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Service

Erica Peterson’s legacy will live on!

Erica Peterson’s legacy will live on!

Erica saw her role with the Friends as “an opportunity to give back to the Park for all its beach walks, bog smells, wild storms, eagle sightings, and night skies,” she says, and in turn, “help steward its vital future.”

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Watch now: Sense of Adventure: Inspire!

Watch now: Sense of Adventure: Inspire!

In our new installment of our “Sense of Adventure” series, part of our 50th anniversary summer celebration, we will look at the many ways these islands and this lake inspire us – poetry, art, jewelry making, night photography, music, even the inspiration to connect the islands through swimming, a kind of dance among the waves. 

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