Monday, September 7, 2015


Rock Island Park Manager Randy Holm posed with
summer-time naturalist and historian Richard Frost
before Frost returned to his LaCrosse home.
Washington Island -

The summer finale that is Labor Day Weekend is itself coming to a close.

The line of traffic leaving the island yesterday indicated there were lots of day visitors Sunday, the middle day of this holiday weekend.

Ferry crews managed to clean up the line by dark, but we'll see a repeat today when those who've stayed here overnight head back home for school and for the remaining days of the work week.

All of this bodes well, we believe, for the Ferry Line and the Island economy, a peak weekend of the year when all crews, all ferries run at full bore bringing people and vehicles back and forth.

I had the pleasure of operating the Karfi to Rock Island this weekend, and by a rare circumstance in scheduling I worked with son, Hoyt, who was my crew.  Saturday we spent the most time together since traveling to Iceland in June!

On the boathouse pier, waiting with backpack and belongings to depart the island, was Richard Frost. Richard was the naturalist and historian on Rock Island this past summer.  His enthusiasm, patient manner of teaching, and his ability to listen and learn quickly made him an asset to Rock Island's visitors and campers.   Evenings he slept on Rock Island, where he also served as campground host and point of contact when Randy Holm and his staff completed their work day.

I had the pleasure to visit with Richard on several occasions, during which time we exchanged information about Thordarson and Rock Island history.   I do hope the Wisconsin DNR park management people recognize the contributions Richard added through enhancing the experience for campers and day visitors.

The same can be said for the many Friends of Rock Island volunteers who take turns occupying the lighthouse one week at a time, in exchange for receiving and guiding visitors through this historic home, daily from 10-4.   Although anticipated, the stream of visitors is no small interruption of one's daily "vacation" routine, accompanied by frequent and often repeated visitor questions.   The rewards, however, (I should think) might include observing the expressions of surprise and reverence on the faces of those who enter the building for the first time, the finely remodeled and furnished home of Rock Island's light keepers.

Heading up this state park and its many facets - and this job includes occasional unpleasantness such as trash hauling (it all goes to the Washington Island recycling station), toilet pumping, and people management (not everyone listens, obeys, or is docile!), and public safety - is Park Manager Randy Holm.   I've come to respect not only Randy's range of activities and responsibilities, but also his proven understanding of Rock Island's history.

While Randy's responsibilities are wide-ranging, with a restricted park budget he's often short-handed, and for that reason you'll find Randy on the Island most days throughout the season (including many of his days off) during the park's generally accepted open/closing dates.   He's made it a point to be on the pier to personally greet arrivals - or ensure that one of his people are present - to welcome visitors and also to set the tone, should there be misconceptions that this is not a managed park experience.

At an Island coffee shop one morning in June, I met two ladies who had crossed on the Karfi a few days earlier to Rock Island.  One commented to me how surprisingly pleasant it was upon her arrival to be welcomed to Rock Island State Park.  She couldn't get over that gesture, which Randy has made into a hallmark of his tenure as Park Manager.  A seemingly small thing, but it can mean a great deal to visitors, and it may encourage repeat visits in future years.  (We encounter many campers who are proud to let us know the number of consecutive years their family - now in the fourth or fifth generations - have camped on Rock Island, a sign of how deep the experience runs.)

This morning hundreds of families or couples are packing up their cars at the conclusion of breakfast (or folding their tents, if camping on Rock Island) and heading toward the ferry dock for the first leg of their drive home.

We appreciate all of these Island visitors, for their participation in the various planned activities that in turn boost our local economy, and for planting seeds for future visits.

 - Dick Purinton

1 comment:

Bill said...

Well said, Dick. Our little island is home to one of Wisconsin's most wonderful state parks. It's difficult to estimate the value that the park has in terms of impact on visitors since there is no really good way to do even something simple such as count how many come and go (ferry, kayak, etc).