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Decarbonize the Parks: Update From the Field

NPLSF is helping Isle Royale National Park fix and add more solar power.
NPLSF is helping Isle Royale National Park fix and add more solar power.

Transitioning Lake Superior’s national parks off fossil fuel and onto clean electricity will require significant on-the-ground work. We are up to the challenge, and making progress. Here are some of the latest updates on NPLSF’s Decarbonize the Parks initiative!

 

New Decarbonize the Parks Program Manager John Chekan has been out visiting the parks since coming on board in May 2024, focusing significant effort on Isle Royale National Park’s solar power system and building decarbonization at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

 

As a remote wilderness park, Isle Royale relies on fossil fuel-powered generators for most of its power, but that may soon change. Chekan is working with park facilities managers and electricians to plan for rebuilding a previous solar system at Rock Harbor, the main access point for visitors to the island, and installing new solar at Mott Island, the summer headquarters and operations center for the park. Using initial engineering studies completed by Willdan, Chekan and park service staff are finalizing details on the plans and completing necessary paperwork to get it into the National Park Service prioritized system.

 

At Apostle Islands, Chekan’s efforts focus on new heating systems at the park’s Little Sand Bay area. A plan is in process to convert the park visitor center and staff housing to air source heat pumps and Chekan is again working with park staff to ensure the project meets the detailed park service specifications and protocols.

 

“Completing the details on these priority projects puts them one step closer to reality,” said NPLSF Executive Director Tom Irvine. “John Chekan’s experience as a National Park Service facilities manager ensures we are going through the right government channels, thoughtfully preparing for this big transition and long-term maintenance.”

At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, park staff are already seeing the benefits of switching from fossil fuel to clean electricity for trail maintenance equipment. The park crew loves the new electric saws, brush cutters, and blowers, according to park superintendent Dave Horn.


The staff is “getting more done with their bodies less sore at the end of the day because of the lighter/quieter equipment,” he said. “We are very grateful for NPLSF’s effort, and it is making a tangible positive impact on our operations.”

Stay tuned for more updates as NPLSF’s work to Decarbonize the Parks! For more information, visit nplsf.org/decarbonize-the-parks.


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About The NPLSF


The National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation (NPLSF) exists to provide financial support for projects and programs that preserve the natural resources and cultural heritage of the five Lake Superior national parks: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Grand Portage National Monument, Isle Royale National Park, Keweenaw National Historical Park, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.


Funded through grants and private donations, NPLSF projects and programs ensure that these great parks and historic sites are maintained for the enjoyment of all current and future visitors.




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