Tracy Tabaka looks out at the blue horizons of Lake Superior beyond the Meyers Beach parking area in the Apostle Islands. 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 45 steps tumbling down a 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.”
At the heart of Wilderness Inquiry is our mission to create opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to access, enjoy, and explore the outdoors. That’s why we are proud to partner with the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to support the Access for All initiative to improve and strengthen the park’s accessibility and use by a wider range of visitors, including removing “all those stairs” with a 520-foot accessible ramp at Meyers Beach.
Day 50: @WildernessINQ is proud to be a partner in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Access for All initiative! Great visit today to Sand Island to see all of the work already done. #100DaysOutdoors #everyonebelongs pic.twitter.com/PX3czJzL7n
— Erika Rivers (@erikarivers) July 30, 2022
“National parks, like the Apostle Islands, belong to all of us,” says Jeff Rennicke, Executive Director of Friends of the Apostle Islands. “Yet for the one in five Americans like Tracy who live with mobility challenges, ‘all those stairs’ can spell the difference between the adventure of a lifetime and being left behind.”
Immediately adjacent to the Apostle Islands on the south shore of Lake Superior is our Little Sand Bay base camp, which over the years has been designed and built to be accessible including tent pads with ramp access, accessible picnic tables and campfire rings, boardwalks over low-laying areas, accessible bathroom and shower facilities, and custom-designed kayaks and other adaptive paddling and camping equipment, all while maintaining the wilderness setting. The base camp allows individuals, like Tracy or those who may need more assistance, the ability to experience the best of the Apostle Islands, such as the Meyers Beach Sea Caves and return for a hot shower, a fresh meal, and access to electricity if needed.
The improvements at Little Sand Bay combined with the Access for All projects make the Apostle Islands one of America’s most accessible national park units – opening the beauty and popularity of the area to everyone.
Together, we can strengthen our commitment to the belief that everyone belongs in the outdoors.
In the News
- An accessible dream: kayaking the Apostle Islands – Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Feb. 20, 2023
- New initiative seeks to improve access to the Apostle Islands for people living with disabilities – Wisconsin Public Radio, Oct. 17, 2022
- Working toward access for all at Apostle Islands – Duluth News Tribune, Oct. 8, 2022