GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In 1983, novelist Wallace Stegner was quoted saying, “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”
The National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation has announced what they call “our second-best plan”: decarbonizing its parks.
“With 10% of the world’s freshwater, Lake Superior and the National Parks are facing the ravages of a changing climate,” the NPLSF says in its mission statement. “We owe it to the lake, the parks and ourselves to create a future without carbon pollution.”
To decarbonize means eliminating all carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. In a plan published this month, the NPLSF detailed the steps the group will take in the next four years, calling them “ambitious, effective, equitable and achievable.”
The first step involves weaning off of fossil fuels. All facilities across the group’s five parks will be moved to solar, geothermal or another renewable energy resources. All facilities will also be upgraded with energy efficient materials, including insulation, lighting, heating and cooling systems and appliances.
The parks’ fleets of vehicles will be sold off in favor of electric vehicles. Charging stations will be installed at every park and the NPLSF is “monitoring emerging technology for EV boats.”
While the focus is on eliminating carbon emissions, the group says the investment makes financial sense, as well.
An analysis run by the NPLSF says the parks could cut their carbon output by 93% with a $10.4 million capital investment and would save the park group approximately $2.7 million in operating costs over the course of 25 years.
To completely cut its carbon output, the NPLSF would need a $15.3 million investment, primarily to cover larger solar arrays and battery storage systems. That plan would cost the park group an extra $3.5 million in operating costs over the course of 25 years.
NPLSF organizers hope their plan inspires park visitors to adopt green habits to better preserve our environment.
“Each year, millions of guests visit the five National Parks of Lake Superior, which presents an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of environmental stewardship from the very moment visitors step into the wonder of these incredible natural and cultural surroundings,” NPLSF Executive Director Tom Irvine said in the plan’s executive summary.
The National Parks of Lake Superior Foundation serves five parks across the lake. Four of them are in Michigan: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Keweenaw National Historic Park, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Isle Royale National Park. The fifth, Grand Portage National Monument, is in northeastern Minnesota.