Long-range plan for Apostle Islands stays the course
By: By John Myers, Duluth News Tribune, Superior Telegram
The National Park Service has a future in mind for the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore that looks a lot like the present.
Boaters, sailors, kayakers, sightseers, campers and others worried about the Park Service's intent for the islands may relax with the knowledge that it's pretty much the same as it is now.
"The vast majority of our visitors are very pleased with how the park looks and feels right now,' said Jim Nepstad, the park's chief of planning and resource management. "We're not going to do anything that would dramatically change that experience.'
The Park Service's "preferred alternative' draft general management plan charting the course for the lakeshore for the next 15-20 years was unveiled last week. The agency will roll it out at public meetings starting later this month. Users should see few if any changes, Nepstad said, and fees and regulations for docking, camping and tours won't change, either. But the Park Service does have some tweaking in mind:
--New visitor center: The park headquarters currently operates out of the old county courthouse in Bayfield. But that's not near the waterfront, and the agency is considering buying land along the expensive waterfront in Bayfield to reach more visitors. "But only if we can find a willing seller' and an affordable piece of land, Nepstad said.
--New shuttle boat service: Because most of the park is accessible only by water, the Park Service wants to develop a new, low-cost shuttle for potential visitors who don't own a boat or kayak. While tour boats operate as concessionaires in the park, Nepstad said inexpensive shuttles would help get more people out to the closest islands.
--Two additional lighthouses would be targeted for rehabilitation, choosing from among Sand, Outer and Michigan Islands.
--Wilderness: The Congressionally-designated Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area, which covers about 80 percent of the park's islands, won't change, except for the Oak Island group campsite being moved to a non-wilderness location.
Gail Green, co-owner of Living Adventure outfitters in Red Cliff, said dealing with the park Service often involves a bureaucracy that can be frustrating for local businesses and residents. But she said the Park Service is aiming in the right direction.
"I think for the most part people like the way things are going now... especially our visitors,' Green said. "We just had a five-day [kayak] trip come in and the people were amazed what we have here... that they can get out to outer islands and have such a great experience.'
Park Service officials also want to develop plans for several historical sites still used by private parties. The sites were once family owned but were sold decades ago to the federal government, which allowed some family members to continue using them. Those rights will expire upon the deaths of those family members.
"It's not fun to talk about because it involves someone's death, but we need to be ready when these fall into our hands,' Nepstad said. The sites include the West Bay Club on Sand Island, fish camps at Rocky Island and Shaw Point on Sand Island.
Nearly 200,000 people visit park islands or the mainland lakeshore each year, with thousands more boating near the park.
Public open house meetings on Apostle Islands National Lakeshore management plan
Aug. 31: Red Cliff Bingo Hall, 2-4 p.m., 88705 Hwy. 13, in Red Cliff.
Aug. 31: Apostle Islands Visitor Center, 6-8 p.m., 415 Washington Ave. in Bayfield.
Sept. 1: Barkers Island Marina, Club Room, 6-8 p.m., 2509 Marina Dr. in Superior.
Sept. 2: REI store in Bloomington, Minn., 6-8 p.m.
Sept. 3: The Lowell Center, Madison, 6-8 p.m.
Sept. 4: Presque Isle Visitor Contact Station, 6-8 p.m., Stockton Island.
Sept. 8: Chief Blackbird Center, 2-4 p.m., Odanah.
Sept. 8: Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, 6-8 p.m., near junction of Highways 2 and 13 just west of Ashland.