Anglers have new opportunities - Partnership Provides Accessible Piers

The “Partnerships for Accessible Piers” program was conceived with the conviction that all persons, without regard for physical abilities, have access to the wonders of the Superior National Forest.  This not only targets the disabled, but the very young and the elderly.  The name Accessible Piers conveys the message that the program only considers accessible fishing piers, however, the program in its scope goes beyond that.  Piers are the main focus today, but as we get further along, we will be constructing streamside fishing access and hopefully hunter access.  These are what the disabled community has asked for, and this is where the commitment lies.

This program officially started in 1989.  Permission was given to proceed with such a goal, with the understanding that the program be worked out with no cost to the government (other than engineering costs).  In 1989, the term “partnerships” was still in its infancy.  This was new ground and the challenge was accepted.  Today, the Superior has nine barrier-free fishing piers.  One was constructed by the Kawishiwi District under contract.  Two were built under partnerships during 1990.  Six piers were built during 1991, with four to six additional piers being built each year thereafter until all twenty-four piers, which we have identified, are built.  This is a threefold partnership on each and every pier.  Partner #1 is the Forest Service. It does the survey and design and provides leadership.  Partner #2 is the corporation or civic organization that provides funding for materials.  To date, the program has had few denials in its search for financial partners.  This certainly speaks for the worth of the endeavor.  The third partner, and the most important of all, is the group that provides the labor.  This group is The Telephone Pioneers of America.  The Pioneers are an employee organization of US West Communications and AT&T, and we cannot say enough good words about them.  The Pioneers have entered into a standing partnership with the Forest to construct all twenty-four piers, plus go in any direction the program goes.  Their dedication to helping people with disabilities and their long term partnership commitment to the Superior National Forest is outstanding.

How does the civic community and the disabled community feel about the program?  During the Duluth Sports Show, a Forest Service Volunteer described the project to a man in a wheelchair who cannot access lakes and can no longer fish.  The man beganto cry.  After a presentation at a local Lions Club, we were told they were so enthused that they are going to build a barrier-free pier in their own city.  Recently, the Forest Service was presented with the Access Minnesota Award at a ceremony in Minneapolis.  This was presented by the Minnesota MultipleSclerosis Society and the Minnesota Society of the American Institute of Architects.  Our state has approximately 500,000 persons with disabilities and 64% of our general population fishes.  Although amounts of disability vary, we can assume there are approximately 300,000 disabled persons in Minnesota alone that can benefit from this project.  To this, add the elderly and the people from surrounding states that typically visit us.  As word has spread about the Superiors’ program, inquiries and requests for help have begun to come in.  Presently, we are assisting the Chippewa, Chequamegon, Mark Twain, and White Mountain National Forests, along with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario, Canada in developing their own programs.


SUPERIOR NATIONAL FOREST BARRIER-FREE FISHING FACILITIES

LACROIX RANGER DISTRICT

Meander Lake – A 12′ x 16′ fishing deck with bench seating is located at the Meander Lake Recreation Area along the Canadian border on St. Louis County #116 approximately 25 miles northeast of Ely, MN.  The pier is located on a beautiful ledge rock cliff overlooking the lake and the famous Indian Sioux fire, and offers excellent smallmouth bass fishing.  Dispersed campsites are located along the barrier-free trail to the pier with tent pads and fire grates.  The present toilet building does not meet accessibility standards at this time but a new toilet building is planned for the near future.  This site is very remote, with the closest stores being located at Crane Lake, Ore or Ely.  This site truly provides a near wilderness experience for the visitor.


LAURENTIAN RANGER DISTRICT

Whiteface Reservoir – A 12′ x 24′ fishing deck with bench seating is located within the Whiteface Campground on the Whiteface Reservoir.  This campground is located approximately 3 miles south of St. Louis County #16 on Forest Road #417.  This is approximately 40 miles north of Duluth and 18 miles south of Aurora, MN.  The pier itself is adjacent to a barrier-free campsite (#14) with a parking lot capable of holding four cars.  This parking lot is designated for fishing pier use only.  A barrier-free compacted gravel trail connects the fishing deck with the parking lot and the campsite.  Located at the deck itself is also a picnic table and a barbecue grill.  Fishing is for walleye and northern.  A bald eagle nest located nearby provided plenty of opportunity for viewing these birds.  Barrier-free men’s and women’s toilets are located at the trailhead to the pier.  This is a concessionaire operated campground.  There is not a fee for using the fishing facilities, however the campsites do require a daily user fee.

Cadotte Lake – A 12′ x 16′ fishing deck with bench seating is located within the Cadotte Lake Campground on Cadotte Lake.  This recreation area is located off St. Louis County #16, approximately 40 miles northeast of Duluth or 25 miles southeast of Aurora, MN  A barrier-free toilet and campsite adjoin the pier with a tent pad, picnic table and fire grate.  A small bait shop is located near the campground entrance which also carries light groceries.  There is a minimal fee for camping at this site.  Fishing is for walleye and northern pike.


TOFTE RANGER DISTRICT

Sawbill Lake – A 12′ x 16′ fishing deck with bench seating is located adjacent to the Sawbill Campground on Sawbill Lake.  This site is located approximately 25 miles up the Sawbill Trail (Cook County #2) from Tofte, MN.  Two barrier-free “handicap only” campsites are located at the trailhead to the deck.  These campsites have tent pads, picnic tables, and barbecue grills.  Sites are for use by disabled persons and their guests only.  Sawbill Outfitters are located 1/2 mile from the fishing pier and have a well-equipped store, with telephone and showers available.  There is no charge for camping at this site at the present time.  Fishing is for walleye and smallmouth bass.  A barrier-free toilet building will soon be installed at this newest site.

Crescent Lake – A 12′ x 16′ fishing deck with bench seating is located within the Crescent Lake Campground on Crescent Lake.  This site is located on Forest Road #165 approximately 25 miles north of Tofte, MN.  A barrier-free campsite is located at the fishing pier trailhead with a tent pad, picnic table and barbecue grill.  The campground is operated by a concessionaire, Sawbill Outfitters, and this site can be reserved by calling them at 218-387-1360.  There is a daily user fee for overnight camping, however daily use of the fishing deck is free.  The trail to the pier is presently hard packed gravel, but will be asphalt-paved this summer.  Two barrier-free toilets are located at the pier trailhead also.  Fishing is for muskie and walleye.

Hogback Lake – This lake has a 12′ x 16′ fishing deck with two bench seats.  It is located within the Hogback Lake Picnic Grounds on F.R. 172, approximately 12 miles east of Isabella, MN.  Three newly constructed campsites have also been added at this site with at least one being barrier-free.  This lake is teeming with rainbow trout.  There are no fees charged at this area.


KAWISHIWI RANGER DISTRICT

Fenske Lake – A floating fishing pier with bench seating is located on Fenske Lake on the Echo Trail (St. Louis County #116) approximately 15 miles north of Ely, MN.  This pier is within the Fenske Lake Campground and has an asphalt-paved trail leading from the barrier-free toilet building and parking area to the pier.  Campsites have tent pads, picnic tables and barbecue grill.  There is a daily fee for camping, however no fee is required for daily use of the fishing pier.  Fishing is for smallmouth bass, bluegill and walleye.


GUNFLINT RANGER DISTRICT

Mink Lake – A 12′ x 16′ fishing deck is located within 1/4 mile of the entrance to the Kimball Lake Campground.  Kimball Lake Campground is approximately 12 miles north of Grand Marais, MN on Forest Road #140.  Although there are no designated barrier-free campsites at Kimball, most sites are fairly level with barrier-free toilets, picnic tables and barbecue grills.  A parking lot is located adjacent to the fishing deck and a compacted gravel trail leads to the deck.  This trail will be asphalt-paved this summer.  Presently there is no toilet building at this site.  Fishing is for rainbow trout, brook trout and splake.

Pine Lake (Trestle Pine) – This is another 12′ x 16′ deck located approximately 2 miles from the Two Island Campground on F.R. 1365.  Two Island Campground is 15 miles north of Grand Marais, MN on Cook County #27.  The road to the pier is presently in poor condition (reconstruction is planned for the fall of 1991).  Toilet facilities will also be constructed at this time.  Besides excellent shore fishing for rainbow trout and splake, loons, osprey, eagles and moose can all be viewed from this facility.  This is a day-use site with camping available at the Two Island Campground for $6.00 per day.

Gary Ekman is a facilities engineer with the Superior National Forest.