Accessible Keweenaw Coalition aims to expand regional accessibility to Keweenaw Peninsula attractions

The newly formed Access Keweenaw Coalition aims to expand regional accessibility in the...
The newly formed Access Keweenaw Coalition aims to expand regional accessibility in the Keweenaw Peninsula and will begin assessments of potential projects starting this summer.(WLUC)
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 7:44 PM EST
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HANCOCK, Mich. (WLUC) - While the Keweenaw Peninsula offers plenty of natural sites to enjoy, not everyone who visits can get to them.

The Accessible Keweenaw Initiative (AKI) hopes to change that with the creation of the Accessible Keweenaw Coalition (AKC).

“A lot of the infrastructure for recreation and historical preservation was developed decades ago when accessibility wasn’t where they are today,” said Visit Keweenaw Executive Director Brad Barnett. “So, it’s been an acknowledgment that something needs to be done, but there hasn’t been a formalized effort at the community level to address this challenge.”

The coalition is made up of a core team of organizations, including Visit Keweenaw and the Western U.P. Planning and Development Region (WUPPDR). The Upper Peninsula Superior Alliance for Independent Living (SAIL) is also a member.

Barnett says the goal is to improve accessibility not only for tourists but for the community as well.

“In places like the U.P., where many of our residents are life-long residents, they’ve been here their entire lives,” said Barnett. “They’re trying to age in place. We want to make sure those people can still go to their favorite places and special places.”

The coalition is funded by a grant from the Keweenaw Area Community Foundation (KCF)’s community impact fund, as well as the Herman Winks Gundlach fund.

“We were excited to be approached with the opportunity to support the initiative,” said KCF Executive Director Robin Meneguzzo. “Not only have we supported them through a financial gift in order to get the project running, we’ll also be participating on the coalition as well.”

The coalition will first assess high-traffic Houghton and Keweenaw County sites to determine necessary changes.

They will then secure public funding.

“It is very costly to do evaluations and to do capital updates to these places,” continued Meneguzzo. “Part of what we’re going to help with is offsetting the cost to do some of those evaluations of those sites with the expertise of the SAIL organization.”

The coalition plans to begin assessments over the summer and begin applying for funding at summer’s end.