Thanks to the attention to the remarkable Apostle Islands National Lakeshore ice caves, this park has been discovered! While the ice caves are indeed remarkable, I will highlight something equally remarkable. It’s less visible, but has a huge impact on the quality of your visit to the area.
I refer to the relationship this park enjoys with its gateway communities, as strong as any in the National Park System. We entered 2014 expecting a very difficult budget. In fact, we planned to curtail winter services to save funding for the (normally) busier summer. Immediately, the community responded to assist their national park. The Town of Bell (Cornucopia) offered to plow Meyers Road. The Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Bureau and the Friends of the Apostle Islands offered to fund our anticipated extra staffing costs for the ice caves. As the event skyrocketed, the scale and costs did too, but the commitments never wavered. In fact, as the visitors poured in, more partners stepped forward. The seamless cooperation with Bayfield County Sheriff, Tourism, Highway, and Land Records departments, as well as the Border Patrol, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Bayfield Ambulance, Bay Area Rural Transit, and the Coast Guard Auxiliary stand out. The Ashland Chamber of Commerce and many businesses from Ashland to Superior found ways to contribute in support of the workers and volunteers who helped make the ice cave experience a good one despite the brutally cold conditions.
What began as a park phenomenon spilled way beyond the park and the community embraced it. In my 32+ years with the NPS, in 13 different NPS areas, I have never seen, no less been part of, anything where federal, state, tribal, and local governments, the business community, and the tourism infrastructure all worked together so smoothly in sync for the common good. We’re all committed to keeping that going, long after the ice has melted. That will be a lasting legacy of the 2014 ice caves.