by Karen DuVall
With partnerships, anything is possible in rural communities. Take for example Bluewater Beach Park in Monticello, Indiana. My hometown of about 5,000 people is most known for its amusement park situated on Lake Shafer. Tourism and outdoor recreation (like camping, fishing, and boating) are major economic drivers for the whole county.
A public access site, Bluewater Beach Park, had seen better days. The small park had dilapidated piers and docks, an overgrown trail, and the bathrooms were nothing to write home about.
As the Monticello Parks Department planned for upgrades, it partnered with Cathy Gross, the City’s ADA/Title VI Coordinator, to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides crucial regulations for basic rights and accessibility, it paints with a very broad brush. Sometimes a facility can be “up to code” but still pose formidable logistical barriers to those with disabilities.
That’s where the next partnership came in. The ADA Coordinator reached out to CDC Resources, an organization that provides services to people with disabilities in five rural counties, to invite clients who uses a wheelchair to provide their expertise.
Mitch Billue, Monticello Parks Superintendent, and Karson Hall, Self-Advocate, tested out park trails. They found that mobility was especially challenging in low areas that remained damp after rain, and different wheel types impacted performance. I was fortunate enough to work with CDC Resources on this project. The Parks Superintendent and I began researching materials to make the trails more accessible, always with cost constraints in mind. Members of the Mayor’s ADA Advisory, including Melissa Draper, (who is now on the Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities), gave input on trail material options. The group decided that GeoGrid pavers were the most accessible and cost-effective, with the added benefit of preventing soil erosion.
The partners and I wrote a grant application to our county’s community foundation for the pavers, and the ADA Council approved matching funds. More partnerships were added as the Parks sought out additional funding. The Rotary Club of Monticello and the White County Tourism Authority stepped up to provide funding for the wheelchair-accessible kayak launch and fishing piers (which also create a fish habitat below them.)
The Parks began construction last fall and held a ribbon cutting on June 30, 2018. Plus, I’ll be joining the Monticello Parks Department and ADA Coordinator to talk about the process at Health By Design’s Indiana Bike & Walk Summit on August 30th.
This project created a social benefit to people with disabilities, an economic benefit to attract tourism, and an environmental benefit by improving conservation. It was only possible when all the partners united to row in the same direction.
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