You are here

A New Foundation Arises to Aid Lake Superior Parks

National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation
National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation

    As times grow increasingly tougher, financially, for the National Park Service, individual parks can find a bit of a lifeline in non-profit friends groups.
    The latest non-profit to surface is the National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation, which sprang to life to aid Isle Royale National Park, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and Grand Portage National Monument.
    Pictured Rocks Superintendent Jim Northrup says such foundations are becoming more and more invaluable to parks because of the fiscal constraints that are, sadly, an everyday reality across the national park system.
    “Virtually every park in the nation has entered into agreements with non-profit partners to assist them in raising funds to provide that margin of excellence, and that is what the National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation is all about,” says Superintendent Northrup.
    Unfortunately, I'm not really sure the non-profits are actually providing that "margin of excellence." Rather, it seems like they're being relied upon more and more to fund the nuts-and-bolts projects that Congress should be funding. For instance, in the case of the Lake Superior foundation monies raised are going to help restore historic buildings and improve visitor facilities, among other things.
    What would constitute a "margin of excellence" project? That's a good question. In Yellowstone, I understand funding from the Yellowstone Park Foundation helped underwrite research into the park's cutthroat trout populations. I suppose I'd view funding to help a park purchase memorabilia for its museum collections as another valuable contribution.
    But shouldn't building maintenance and visitor facilities be the responsibility of Congress?
    That's a debate that will continue for the immediate future. In the meantime, it's good to see the Lake Superior foundation coming to the aid of its parks.


Iam wondering what the differnce is between a "national park" and "national monumnet"?

Their website needs help. There apparently is no way to contribute except through the mail. That's SO 20th Century!

Thanks, Kurt, for your generous coverage of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Sunday and Monday’s posts. I’m pleased to say that Sunday the grand reopening of the Raspberry Island Light, which you pictured, went exceptionally well despite Lake Superior’s best efforts to make things difficult!

In your post about the National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation you raise, appropriately, the question of when does the intended “margin of excellence” actually become a replacement for necessary, but missing, operational funds? Both the board of the NPLSF and the 4 superintendents struggle with this because no matter how we define it, the things we can do with the grants the new organization provides simply wouldn’t happen without those funds. Should I, as the park superintendent spend the money on the most important unfunded needs, or should I only use if for “extras”? I think the fact that we talk about this and wrestle with this openly is actually a good sign, and I believe each of the parks has thus far found an appropriate balance point.

One thing that makes a real positive difference is that the board of the NPLSF has come to the park superintendents and said, in effect, “How can we help?” “What are the park’s priorities you’d like our assistance with?" We’ve just signed a formal agreement where all parties have agreed to abide by the ethical and fundraising rules established by law and NPS policy. I have no worry with this group that they’ll try to influence park priorities or park policies.

It’s true, as Larry Epke points out, that the NPLSF web site isn’t much more than a shell at this point. That’s reality with a start-up volunteer organization. I’m sure they’d welcome a talented volunteer to make it hum. (Contact me if need be!) I hope that nobody is discouraged from contributing due to the web site. If anyone can get Lake Superior Magazine, each issue for the last year has had an excellent full-page write-up on the group’s activities, thanks to the support of the publishers. Unfortunately, none of that is on line either.

Lastly, in answer to the question about national parks and national monuments: a national park must be established by an act of Congress. National monuments can be established by a stroke of the president’s pen. Usually, national parks are larger but not always. Both kinds of NPS areas are subject to the same laws and regulations.

Bob Krumenaker
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide