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Easy Access for Everyone
The rivers are what draw visitors to the Parkway. Accessible landings will make it possible for more people to enjoy the water trail because they take away a huge barrier for people with disabilities, especially those with lower extremity and stability issues. The landings are equipped with a bench seat at wheelchair height that then steps down to make it easier to maneuver into the kayak. Hand rails on both sides, and rollers allow boaters to then slide their watercraft into the water. This ease of entry is then waiting for them when they are ready to land and get off the water.
The first accessible landing has been installed at Shattuck Park in Neenah, WI in 2014 thanks to generous gifts from the Frank C. Shattuck Community Fund housed within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, the Fox Cities Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, the Village of Kimberly and WE Energies Foundation.
We continue to apply for grants and work with individual municipalities to continue to provide accessibility to the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Water Trail.
We are excited to announce that 4 additional accessible landings have been installed within the Parkway for a total of 5 landings. The units have been installed to date in the following communities:
2nd – Sunset Park, Village of Kimberly in spring of 2015
3rd – Lutz Park, City of Appleton in summer of 2015
4th – Mannerly Park/East River Trail, Village of Bellevue in summer of 2015
5th – City of Green Bay in summer of 2015
Check out what Gina Lytle and Dawn Lucier have to say about the simplicity of the 1st landing installed in Neenah:
The goal of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is to create a water trail that supports all who want to use it. That entails building at least 21 accessible landings along the river corridor, as the first phase. The Parkway is working closely with area municipalities to choose the best sites for the accessible landings. We are raising private funds to build the landings, will gift them to the municipalities, and will ask their help with installation and ongoing maintenance.
Please consider joining. Your $30 membership fee will help us as we work on the next landing. It really will make a difference!
Once the trail is built out, we realize that the work doesn’t stop there. Our experiences with Team River Runners have shown the need for pulling together a plan for training, services, and support for the population we are building this for. That will be Phase II of the project, first we need to build it.
Prairie du Chein has installed the second accessible landing along the Water Trail! It is officially found on the Mississippi River, at Washington Street Park. The City is so committed to their landing, they purchased canoes and kayaks promote paddling in their area. They offer instruction, special events, and rentals.
Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Water Trail
Accessibility In Focus
Children and adults with disabilities oftentimes struggle to explore and enjoy the natural resources of the state due to barriers, unless opportunities are provided. Adaptive water sports are evolving to become a means by which individuals with disabilities improve their health and quality of life through physical activity. A National Recreation Trail, named the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Water Trail, stretching from Green Bay, crossing Portage, to the Prairie du Chien area is in development and must accommodate this population, not as a secondary thought but as a primary focus.
As paddle sports grow in popularity, we must remember to advocate so the infrastructure being developed is suitable to serve people of all abilities. Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is doing just that! We are creating a 280-mile water trail which stretches across the state of Wisconsin, and to date have raised funds and partnered for 6 accessible launches, with many more to come.
This concept so inspired Chris Navarro, a Sedona based artist, that he created the statue titled “Freedom” to commemorate the importance and impact of being able to independently kayak in the river. By leaving the wheelchair behind on the shore, each kayaker is equal to the other, lower extremity disabilities are difficult if not impossible to detect, and everyone is gliding together through the waves.
Please consider purchasing one of these beautiful statues, the proceeds of which will go toward the next accessible launch. The Fox and Wisconsin Rivers – Connecting us all.
As part of developing this water trail, the Parkway will partner with communities to provide numerous access points at strategic locations along the water trail that encourage those with disabilities to venture out paddling. Couple this with services that support this population to enhance their experience as they paddle.
We are excited about the positive impact this project will have for the individuals in the communities around the rivers. Whether used for rehabilitation purposes for those with short-term disabilities due to injury, long-term access for the permanently disabled, or simply a stable platform for those who need a little extra help in launching their kayak, these landings add greatly to the number of people who have the ability to paddle these waters.
We worked with Dr. Gregg Greenough, Harvard University, to study the density of this target population to determine best placement of these sites. This research confirmed the need for this project and provided geospatial grounded guidance for the first accessible landings.
Regarding the best accessible unit to use, we interviewed manufacturers, municipalities, and paddlers to determine what aspects were most important. We were given particular help from Wausau’s Park and Recreation department. They installed the landing, which was at the top of our list, 1 year prior and had much first hand experience to share. All positive.
Going one step further, we placed a temporary accessible unit of this kind in Neenah, Wisconsin for our most highly attended recreational paddle. The reaction is well represented with the following email,
“I used the boat launch at Shattuck Park on Saturday during the Park to Park Paddle. Not only was it fun sliding into the water, but for someone like me, who has a little bit of a mobility issue, it sure made it a lot easier to get into the water than trying to balance and maneuver into my boat from the pier. Thank you for putting it at the park for this event!”
The response to the accessible unit was amazing. With these landings, users place their canoe or kayak on a series of rollers in the center of the dock where it remains stable until the user is ready to launch. The launch has a wheelchair transfer station that assists paddlers in positioning themselves in their kayak. Paddlers push off from the launch with the aid of two parallel handrails. When returning, paddlers reverse the process and pull themselves up to the dock’s level center. The launch also eliminates the need to step in the water which is advantageous when paddling during cool weather, and so extends the season for all.
We have worked for the last year with municipalities along the system to choose the first 15 accessible landing sites, along with 30 traditional sites. These, in combination, will make up the backbone of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Water Trail.
The Parkway as an Organization
There are not many other organizations that take a regional approach to promoting the history, improving access, and conserving the future of the Fox and Wisconsin rivers. The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is unique in our mission and has had an impressive 5 year start. We have accomplished many necessary steps needed to lay the foundation on a strong, vibrant, and self-sustaining organization. We are proud to have accomplished all we have with only 1 part-time employee, and a very large and dedicated corps of volunteers.
The secret to the effectiveness of the volunteers comes from the fact that we work hard to pair individuals up with a project that they are individually passionate about. The Parkway is fortunate to house a wide range of topics and themes, allowing everyone the opportunity to find one that motivates them to action.
The installation cost for each accessible boat landing, packaged with 2 traditional landings, portages, safety study, directional and place signage, project and construction management, and historical interpretation is $43,150.
Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway
P.O. Box 204
Kimberly, WI 54136
To find out more information about the project and keep up to date on the progress, please follow our blog. If you have been following for awhile and want to support the water trail, we appreciate gifts of time, talent, or treasure.
The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway is a 501(c)(3) organization. All contributions are tax deductible to the maximum amount allowed by law.