This presentation is part of the Proceedings of the Maritime Cultural Landscape Symposium, October 14-15, 2015, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Diana Penkiunas: Okay, our next presenter is David Cooper, speaking on the multi-faceted Apostle Islands. Mr. Cooper works as an archaeologist and cultural resource specialist for the National Park Service at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Bayfield, Wisconsin. He formerly served as state underwater archaeologist for the state of Wisconsin and also as underwater archaeologist for the US Naval Historical Center. His interest in cultural landscapes stems from his work as an archaeologist, wildland firefighter, and park resource manager.

David Cooper: Thank you. The Apostle Islands is a national lakeshore. In a sense it’s a Maritime Cultural Landscape that was conceived of in another form of legislation, an act of congress designating a national lakeshore. Some of the problems that other agencies and organizations have had in conceptualizing MCLs for us was dealt with rather simply by the fact that congress drew a big enough line around our area to encompass many of these resources. Much of what I’ll be talking about is the actual nitty-gritty problem of managing those resources. The designation process is just the first step. If you are going to designate a resource, you’re eventually going to need to manage it. That’s what our problem is moving from 60,000 feet up down to ground level here at Apostle Islands.

We have 22 islands in this archipelago. We’re on the west end of Lake Superior. These maps really aren’t showing up well. We’re near the port of Duluth Superior on the west end of the lake, was and still is one of the biggest and busiest shipping ports in the world. The Apostles was very much tied to the development of Duluth Superior as itself a Maritime Cultural Landscape. The Apostle Islands is home to a very rich history, homeland of the Anishinaabeg, the Ojibwa people, and a varied cultural heritage going back to both native use and also early fur trade history center. Logging, fishing, farming, shipping, lighthouses, and quarrying. We’ve got a broad spectrum of resources throughout the park and representative of a larger class of resources that you’re going to find across the Great Lakes, the story of both native use and European-American use of these waterways. We’re also home to the largest collection of lighthouses in the National Park System. This is what we’re probably best known for. These are major tourism attractions. Our cruise boats, the tourism industry and the community is heavily geared around lighthouse visitation. The iconography of lighthouses, if you will.

Every one of these lighthouses itself has an interesting maritime story tied in with shipping and shipwrecks. These are all individually listed on the National Register. The landscapes reach of these lighthouses has been individually evaluated and DOE’d, determined eligible, in most cases. We have a specific process within the National Parks Service to actually inventory and evaluate cultural landscapes and develop treatment recommendations. We have CLI, Cultural Landscape Inventory, that these are all on, and then Cultural Landscape Reports, which are the treatment documents that are the next step in actually managing a landscape. For the lighthouses all these documents are online on the Parks website. If you need help finding them, let me know. These are good case studies of actual on-the-ground nitty-gritty landscape management documents.

7 light stations, they have multiple towers, multiple structures, everything from boathouses to barns, so each of these stations is different in its complexity. We have a great deal of integrity down to flowerbeds and ornamental plantings, even graffiti from the keeper’s kids, in some cases, a very rich resource. The lights are configured as a means of bypassing the islands. I mentioned the Duluth Superior traffic. This is keeping that shipping away from the islands, and our outer chain of lights relate to that. The inner chain of lights guided traffic in and out of Chequamegon Bay.

Now, an effort was made some years ago to conceive of these as a National Historic Landmark, collectively. John Jensen referred earlier to the problems of conceptualizing maritime space, the fact that you’re looking at a 30 by 30 mile area here. Washington was unconvinced that 7 lighthouses across that large area were themselves a combined NHL. We realized that we needed a better context and a better geographic argument made. Ted Karmansky from Loyola is now studying navigation aids on the Great Lakes in creating this bigger context. We’re hoping that’s going to give us a better means to make the case for NHL eligibility for these resources in conceptualizing them as part of a bigger network, or as a chain, as Bert mentioned a few minutes ago. If the system itself is still working, that in itself speaks to the integrity of the resource. We still have very much a functioning aid to navigation system here.

As I mentioned, it’s a very ancient maritime landscape. We have at least 5000 years of documented human use here, and on the mainland closer to 10 or even 12 thousand years of usage. Because the islands had inundated, much of our archaeology is now underwater or was disturbed at various glacial and lake level change intervals, but we do have a long-standing archaeological and human usage of the area. With fisheries being, of course, probably the most ancient of these activities and carrying right through to the present day. Still a very active fishery, dominated both by native fishing community and by Euro-Americans, particularly Norwegians and Swedes. We have them, in itself, also an ethnographic resource with these different culture groups working in the fishing industries and their own traditions, in fishing, boat building, etc.

Also a great population of ships and shipwrecks through the islands. This is one of the earliest exposures I had to Apostle Islands, was working for the state of Wisconsin doing shipwreck inventory. Jensen had mentioned earlier this was also part of us building the concept that these wrecks are part of a much larger system than simply isolated spots on the bottom of the lake.

Other allied industries, quarries and wharves. Tam Thompson from the Wisconsin Historical Society with support from the Sea Grant Institute has been working on a study of these resources. Some of them are also listed as National Register properties that have both above-water and below-water elements to their resources. These are recreational sites, as far as sport diving. Along with the shipwrecks, visitors can hike to these quarries. We interpret them to the public.

Logging on the islands, of course this was an activity throughout the western Great Lakes. Very important. The islands were logged much later because of the difficulty of getting to them. That did bring about some interesting methods of logging, almost foreshadowing some of the methods used up in Alaska. Bush planes, logging railroads, sort of a different type of logging than your conventional view of Midwestern logging camps, although we had conventional horse-logging done in the islands as well.

In the wake of the loggers, of course, the hard-scrabble island farms. These were predominately Scandinavians. Many of them were doing this as part of a subsistence fishery, or the farming was subsistence and the fish was the cash crop. It sort of varied. We have a project going on right now. Brenda Williams is studying Sand Island, one of the islands that was most intensively occupied and farmed, studying the Scandinavian commercial fishing and farming community on those islands and the later resort communities that evolved and the cultural landscapes that have survived from those activities.

All of these activities, of course, have left behind some sort of physical imprint on the landscape. Changes to our vegetation, remaining structures, features. All of them require varied preservation efforts. In some cases it’s just a matter of keeping natural forces or human forces from impacting them, but, in a lot of cases, it means the park itself actually intervening. If you’re going to manage something, you’re going to have a range of options. They’re going to depend on, obviously, your money and what your objectives are. It’s going to depend on the type of resource. You can’t take something that was built with a steam hoist and a drag line and try and manage it with a pencil.

This really comes home when you’re trying to manage something like historic lighthouses. These become very difficult types of properties to maintain and they are in different logistical environments for trying to access. We had a 6 year project begun in 2009 using a congressional appropriation. Basically doing rehabilitation work and stabilization work on our lighthouses. This was the largest historic preservation effort we’ve ever undertaken at Apostle Islands. It was largely done through contractors, both the architects and the tradesmen, whether it was carpenters, roofers, engineers. We worked on the 5 stations and the associated cultural landscapes. Developing management alternatives, soliciting public input on the process, and achieving goals, which, of course, we didn’t have enough money to do nearly everything we wanted, but we were able to establish landscape treatment recommendations. This is an example. Michigan Island restoration work being done on the light station. Including preserving and even replacing or rehabilitating landscape features such as orchard and windbreak. Small-scale features such as ornamental plantings and an extensive list of rehabilitation work on the structures themselves.

I mentioned the logistical challenges for management. Some of these islands are up to 30 miles offshore. The park has a small fleet of work boats, including small high-speed landing craft. There’s a commercial vessel that’s actually the last surviving World War 2 tank landing craft in operation in the US. The outer island, that’s the vessel on the lower right, that’s also available for use and it was actively involved in doing the heavy lifting for the lighthouse project. All this represents a really difficult maritime environment to be working in, and the long-term implications of doing maintenance on the structures, the landscapes, the maintained openings around each of these lights.

A key part of actually having a light is, obviously, you have to be able to see it. It’s amazing how these forest areas have overgrown, which brought up the problem of vegetation clearing and disposal. It’s not a matter of just whistling up a truck for hauling away waste or hauling in a chipper for debris. These become small-scale logging operations when you try and do them on an island and you try and do them to environmental standards and work safety standards. The tools can be chainsaws, brush cutters, a variety of different tools. Everything has to be, obviously, pretty portable. We weren’t able to take large-scale brush-hogs out into the islands although we were able to get Bobcat sized equipment. We’re not able to reclaim large areas of the original openings, we’re just trying to maintain portions of the openings to preserve part of the historic scene. This is Devil’s Island in the bottom of the image showing the expanse of the grounds there that were rough-mowed as part of keeping the grounds open.

This serves other functions as well. Much of the visitation is by cruise boat. This allows people coming from the water to still be able to see these lights. It provides fire-breaks against wildfire which could damage these properties. By reducing vegetation, we’re also reducing moisture around the buildings and moisture damage to the structures. We also used fire as part of the landscape maintenance and we’re continuing to look at other fire options, larger broad-scale burning on the stations, but we’re going to at least be continuing with slash-pile burning for part of the time. We have done some chipping with portable chipping units.

Restoration work has included replanting of missing elements or replacement of some elements. Orchards. We’ve done erosion control, which was necessary on many of these banks. Michigan Island is in the right-hand image there, showing some of the rehabbed grounds with ornamental flower beds. We had to do a certain amount of work on the circulation paths, such as sidewalks, to meet modern accessibility standards, ADA standards, so those all become concerns when you’re bringing the public and welcoming the public out to a facility in a federally managed area. We’ve got all kinds of concerns, whether it’s hazardous materials, visitor safety, visitor accessibility to deal with. It’s not just a matter of restoring things to 19th century conditions, but actually meeting 20th century expectations and needs as well.

Before I started working for the National Park Service, I probably viewed lighthouses and maritime landscapes perhaps in this way. I now tend to look at them more in this way. It’s a necessary reality check when we move from the intellectual side of a designation process to the actual management side of the designation process. Now, not all management is this intensive. As I mentioned, this is all scaled to the type of resource and to the type of goals that you have. We have many non-built landscapes in the park that may be traditional cultural properties, ethnographic cultural landscapes. We’ll be hearing a presentation tomorrow by Edith Leoso of Bad River Band, Jessie Conway from UW Madison looking at consideration of native landscapes, native use of the lands, work being done by the Bad River tribe in the adjoining waters of Chequamegon Bay and the mainland.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]nps.gov
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119