Remembering JFK's Visit to Ashland
Posted at: 09/24/2013 9:16 PM
| Updated at: 09/24/2013 10:10 PM
By: Travis Dill
President John F. Kennedy visited the Northland 50 years ago, and on Tuesday residents in Northern Wisconsin celebrated the environmental stewardship he spurred in Ashland.
President Kennedy flew over the Apostle Islands and the Chequamegon Bay area in 1963. He called for their protection in a speech just after landing at the Ashland Airport.
To celebrate the event's 50th anniversary over 200 residents flocked to the airport that now bears Kennedy's name in Ashland. It was a much bigger crowd, 12,000 people, that filled the small tarmac for Kennedy's speech.
“There were just lots and lots of people. It was crowded. People everywhere,” Kitty Weese said.
Weese grew up in Ashland, and was a high school senior when the president flew into the small Wisconsin town.
“It was really exciting to be here and come out to the airport and watch those helicopters fly in and see the secret service and Kennedy come out,” Weese said.
Kennedy spoke about protecting the natural resources of the area that day, but former congressman Dave Obey said without the efforts of Senator Gaylord Nelson the trip never would have happened.
“I don't believe you can understand the excitement of that day unless you understand the excitement that people like Gaylord Nelson and John Kennedy brought to politics,” Obey said.
Kennedy was assassinated just two months later, but Senator Nelson worked for seven years until the Apostle Island Lakeshore became a protected national park. Weese said she wasn't concerned about the environment as a high schooler, but now she's thankful for the conservation efforts.
“We go sailing around the islands and to know that's a national park and everyone can be there to enjoy it I think that's very nice," Weese said.
The crowd cheered as the event speakers touted environmental accomplishments of the last 50 years, and the applause grew louder as the politicians called for the conservation efforts to continue for generations to come.
The politicians speaking at the event said the environmental reforms took bi-partisan support. A Democratic congress passed the legislation, but Republican President Richard Nixon signed it into law.