Apostle Islands area to mark 50th anniversary of JFK visit

ASHLAND, Wis. (AP) – Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy flew over the Apostle Islands and Bad River Watershed, landed at the Ashland Airport and delivered a speech about the need to conserve pristine areas for recreation and economic interests.

The president’s attention to the 21 islands, often called the “Jewels of Lake Superior,” eventually led to their inclusion in the National Park system, an effort that the late Sen. Gaylord Nelson spearheaded with help from former U.S. Rep. Dave Obey. Today, the Chequamegon Bay area will mark Kennedy’s visit on Sept. 24, 1963, Wisconsin Public Radio News reported.

“They’re the crown jewels of the state of Wisconsin,” Obey said. “Visually they’re gorgeous, and when you actually get out there on that water there’s a certain sense of peace that comes over you almost instantly.”

Obey will speak at Today’s celebration in Ashland, along with Tia Nelson, the daughter of the late senator. The legacy of Kennedy’s visit is preservation of a pristine area and access for all people, Obey said.

“It certainly prevented the area from being honky-tonked up,” Obey said. “When you have a beautiful place like that, there is always a temptation on the part of people with large amounts of resources to grab it for themselves.”

President Kennedy, at the time, said his visit to northern Wisconsin was part of a conservation trip across the United States suggested by Sen. Nelson.