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Isle Royale plan lays out a new path to manage cultural resources

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Paul Brown / National Park Service
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The Rock Harbor Lighthouse was built in 1855. It marks safe entry into Rock Harbor Channel through Middle Islands Passage on the park's east end.

Isle Royal National Park, in Lake Superior, could see some changes in the years ahead.

The National Park Service released a plan to manage the remote island’s cultural resources — located in the few areas of the more than 130,000-acre park that are not designated as wilderness.

“We have some really big ideas in the plan,” said Liz Valencia, program manager for interpretation, education and cultural resources at Isle Royale.

Those plans include renovating historic structures, like lighthouses and cabins … offering more access to visitors … and more guidance on what they’re looking at and why it’s significant.

The Rock Harbor Guesthouse could be renovated to function as a hostel or other overnight lodging. And the Park Service wants to work with tribes to “enhance or revive their long relationship with Isle Royale.”

Valencia says the National Park Service already developed a relationship with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota … the closest to the island, geographically.

But there are other north shore and south shore Chippewa tribes — Ojibwe tribes — that have a connection to Isle Royale,” she said. “So we want to explore more fully those connections. We feel like we’ve just kind of started in on that.”

Valencia says discussions about making a plan like this have been happening since the late 1990s.

How soon these changes come to pass will depend on the size of each project, and its cost.