Wisconsin Point is open again with restored coastal habitat, and improved beach access and parking.

The 228-acre peninsula on the southeast end of Superior was celebrated Friday, Sept. 20, following a $1.5 million restoration of 85,000 square feet of shoreline, 85 acres of forest and 150 acres of sensitive coastal habitat with enhanced access to fishing and birding.

“This is what happens when we all come together to make good happen,” said Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes joined the celebration of the Wisconsin Point dune restoration project Friday, Sept. 20. (Shelley Nelson / snelson@superiortelegram.com)
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes joined the celebration of the Wisconsin Point dune restoration project Friday, Sept. 20. (Shelley Nelson / snelson@superiortelegram.com)

“What is done today is a very good thing,” said Kevin DuPuis, chairman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “I know when we were introduced to the project it was kind of a no-brainer asking for our support … it needs to be restored. Put it back to the way it used to be.”

Human use over the years had degraded the sensitive dune and forest ecosystems and introduced invasive species, prompting the city to work with Wisconsin’s Coastal Management Program to design a project to restore the land that had once been occupied by Fond du Lac tribal ancestors. Using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the city embarked on a three-year effort to restore the point’s ecosystem and enhance access.

During the project, parking improvements were made at six areas along the point, reducing the number of areas where people could pull off the road to access the beach and Allouez Bay. Accessible boardwalks were added to protect the dunes.

Mayor Jim Paine addresses people gathered for the celebration of the Wisconsin Point dune restoration project. (Shelley Nelson / snelson@superiortelegram.com)
Mayor Jim Paine addresses people gathered for the celebration of the Wisconsin Point dune restoration project. (Shelley Nelson / snelson@superiortelegram.com)

“I’ve had several elderly folks with ambulatory challenges who have called and expressed their gratitude, being able to see the lake again for the first time in decades,” said Linda Cadotte, Superior’s parks, recreation and forestry director. “I’ve experienced and run into a few of them out here sitting in their chairs overlooking the lake with such gratitude and tears in their eyes.”

The six parking areas remain, paved with asphalt and pervious pavers.

Some of the closed parking areas are well camouflaged because they’ve grown in so well, Cadotte said.

“For years, we struggled as a city to try to figure out what to do with this special place because we never had the resources to really take care of it, and people were abusing it,” said Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, a former Superior city councilor. “I really think that this project is really going to turn the corner and allow people to enjoy it as the gem it ought to be recognized as.”

In addition to the restoration, the city has added interpretative signs along the point to explain the ecosystem and the cultural history of Wisconsin Point.

Some of the former parking areas along Wisconsin Point are barely detectable as new dune grass and trees grow on the restored dunes. Six parking areas with permeable pavers have created more parking spaces on the point than existed before the restoration project. (Shelley Nelson / snelson@superiortelegram.com)
Some of the former parking areas along Wisconsin Point are barely detectable as new dune grass and trees grow on the restored dunes. Six parking areas with permeable pavers have created more parking spaces on the point than existed before the restoration project. (Shelley Nelson / snelson@superiortelegram.com)

Mayor Jim Paine said Wisconsin Point is the first place in the history of all people where people settled in the area.

“It means a lot to me, and it should mean a lot to everyone,” said DuPuis, who hopes everyone will take care of Wisconsin Point “with respect.”