Reopening park areas for the summer season presents challenges everywhere, but few if any have to go so far as to call in an icebreaker to help them with the task. That’s what Isle Royale had to do this year to negotiate ten miles of the icebound Portage Canal leading from park headquarters to the open waters of Lake Superior.
With over half million dollars worth of supplies for an employee dorm and equipment and materials for a major alternative energy conversion to deliver for scheduled start up in less than four weeks, any delays in schedules would be costly, so the Coast Guard was asked to assist. They dispatched the icebreaker USCGC Katmai Bay, which lead the park’s LCM to clear water.
Once on the island, though, the eight-man opening crew faced more challenges, particularly the 12-foot drifts extending from building roofs to the ground. When checking for downed power lines, one of the workers was able to ski over the top of one of the park maintenance buildings. The team was also greeted with about ten inches of new snow and blizzard conditions on their second day on the island.
After two days of shoveling and hard work, the generators are now up and running, lift stations are being dug out, and a forecast for warmer temperatures will keep the island’s opening on schedule.
Here's to the resiliency of NPS employees in taking on some tough challenges.