Thursday, September 3, 2009
Apostle Islands Mgmt Plan open house
The open house to discuss and comment on the management plan for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore was fairly well attended last night, even though the weather outside was spectacular, it was the regular paddle night for both SKOAC and ISK, and road construction made getting to REI an adventure. The crowd ranged in age from kids to the elderly, predominantly kayakers, but with a smattering of power boaters and sailors thrown in as well. There were a number of poster board displays and copies of the plan, a very nicely printed piece to my professional printers eye. It was a polite crowd, as would be expected from we Minnesota Nice types, with no major ranting that I heard. The one topic that seemed to fire a lot of people up, reported in the Daily Press as well, was the plan to move the Presque Isle campground on Stockton Islands away from the lake and into the woods.
The main reason that most people visit the area of course, is the lure of the lake. People want to see the lake, smell the lake, and experience the lake. There seems to be a trend to move camp sites away from the lake which is exactly opposite of what most visitors want. I've camped at most of the sites in the islands over the years. The most attractive kayak sites, the ones that get reserved first, are the Rocky Island spit, Oak Island spit, and the sites on the beach at York Island. The last sites to go are the ones in the woods. Its a longer carry for the kayak gear, normally significantly more mosquito infested, and the ambiance of the lake is much more removed. My award for Worst Campsite in the Apostles goes to the site on Michigan Island, hands down. Its up over a sand berm and down in a depression that, if it rained for a couple days, could easily turn into a swamp. Its heavily forested which keeps the effects of the wind at a minimum and provides excellent flying conditions for all sorts of winged vermin. There are of course, good reasons to move campsites away from the lake, especially at Presque Isle. Erosion of the beach area, difficulty of maintaining the string of outhouses, and the fact that a line of campsites rather than a concentrated group is like a supermarket aisle to the bears, are all good reasons to move the camp. But do they outweigh the benefits? Would more sand ladders help with the erosion? Concentrate the toilet facilities and make people walk a bit farther? Install more bear boxes? Charge more for camping in those sites to help offset the costs? After all, lower deck blue line seats are a lot more expensive than upper deck behind the goalie.
The first and last time I camped at the Presque Isle camp was as a college student on a glacial geology field trip with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1975. I not only learned about the creation of the islands but also learned that blackberry brandy is the devil's elixir and have not touched that vile fluid since then. I honestly can't recall any big change in the camp area from then until my last visit in June on a day paddle from the Oak spit, another campsite that has the Park Service Sword of Damocles hanging over it due to crazy wilderness rules. A blackberry brandy infused memory might not be completely accurate but I have seen and remembered major change in other areas of the park and I just don't remember any significant impact at the Presque Isle campsites.
We all have until October 23 to comment in writing and a thoughtful note from the SKOAC Renegades will be forthcoming. It will not be the vile note that you see the Zaporozhian Cossacks composing to send to the Turkish Sultan (one of the most obscene and insulting notes ever sent to a government official, according to legend) but hopefully a well reasoned statement of our opinion of the plan as well as a pat on the back for a job well done in many significant areas of the park. Letters and feedback have an impact in these cases and letting the park management know what we're thinking is crucial to the development of the plan. If you didn't make one of the many meetings....and the guys are in Madison tonite.......drop them a note.