Apostle Island Park Exploration – 1930

Rocky Island Robert J Nelson Collection

Rocky Island
Robert J Nelson Collection

Cutover Conditions Kill National Park Project: 1929-1931

A Chronological History from Bayfield County Press Archives

More than 70 representative businessmen of Ashland, Washburn and Bayfield gathered at the Bracken hotel here Wednesday evening for a banquet in honor of Arno B. Cammerer, acting director of the United States National Park Service and to hear him express his opinion as to the possibility of the establishment of a national park on the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, adjacent to the city.

The meeting was the culmination of nearly two years of effort on the part of the Chequamegon Bay citizens to have the historic and beautiful island group made a unit of the park system. The hopes built up during that time were shattered. That night, Mr. Cammerer stated he would be unable to speak favorably on the project. He dwelt at length on the historic background of the islands and their unsurpassed beauty, but said that the fact that nearly all of the area had been denuded of its virgin forests was the deciding factor in his adverse report.

His remarks lead his hearers to believe that another Lake Superior island, Isle Royale, will be selected by the Park Service for a National Park in the near future. And in a frank and appreciated review of the situation he said that “Chequamegon Bay should be one of the terminals of a future steamship route to that contemplated national park; that he believed the thousands of people who would visit such a park would appreciate the opportunity to view the beauty and splendors of the Apostle Islands as a part of the journey to the park.

Mr. Cammerer also said that the islands should be incorporated as a state park and that he would be pleased to confer with the Governor of Wisconsin and give his assistance to that end.

Those at the meeting were naturally disappointed in the report of the Park Service official, but none were able to controvert the facts, as he stated them, which led to his opinion. All were please with his courteous and frank position that many men would have even dated by giving no direct answer at the time.

District Attorney C. F. Morris of Washburn was toastmaster and introduced speakers which, although things believed to be in favor of the selection of this area as a national park. Dr. H. G. Mertens, Bayfield, spoke of the healthful climate and natural conditions of the Chequamegon Bay region. Dr. Brownell, President of Northland College, Ashland, gave an inspiring word picture of the beauties of the Apostle Islands, and Lake Superior. Douglas S. Knight, Bayfield major, told of the trips taken with Mr. Cammerer to inspect the islands. Congressman H. H. Peavy made a plea for the creation of such a park as a playground for the millions of people in the Middle West who cannot get to more distant parks. John F. Hauser of the city was the last speaker before Mr. Cammerer and added his word of approval to the project.

Charles Sheridan, Washburn, chairman of the committee which had spent much time in promoting the project introduced Mr. Cammerer and told of the work done since the conception of the idea at a banquet in Washburn in December 1929.

The survey made by the Park Service man Tuesday and Wednesday of this week followed a similar one made a year ago by Harlan P. Kelsey. These surveys and the attendant publicity have done much to bring the attention of the public to the beauties and historical background of the Apostle Islands. That fact to a large extent well repays for the time and energy expended by those who backed the project for nearly 2 years. Another source of satisfaction to the residence of this region is the fact that no action of government or man can take from us the inspirational beauty in scenic grandeur of the islands and great Lake, which are ours to enjoy from day to day. Bayfield County Press, Thursday, August 20, 1931

This history brief was written by Robert J. Nelson. Generously sharing our local history through his research and writing.