State recreation areas add handicap canoe, kayak launches

The new launch ramp at Grebe Lake in the Rifle River State Recreation Area. Photo: MDNR

The new launch ramp at Grebe Lake in the Rifle River State Recreation Area. Photo: MDNR

By Howard Meyerson

Disabled paddlers who need assistance getting into canoes or kayaks and getting launched will find life is a bit simpler these days at Bishop Lake in the Brighton State Recreation Area.

A unique launch kayak launch system has been installed there that allows paddlers to move smoothly from wheelchairs into their boats while on a dry and a stable platform, from which they can guide themselves easily into the water.

“There is always a need to make things more accessible,” said Mike Donnelly, the Brighton State Recreation Area supervisor.  “We are trying to open recreation up to those people who use wheelchairs, crutches and prosthetics.”

The new EZ Launch Accessible Transfer System, as it is called, was funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation “Access 2 Recreation Initiative.” The launch platform at Bishop Lake is the second of two installed at state recreation areas. The other is on Grebe Lake in the Rifle River State Recreation Area.

“The foundation gave us two million dollars a couple of years ago which has been set aside for projects in state parks and recreation areas,” said Dan Lord, development program manager in DNR’s Parks and Recreation division. “They also gave one million dollars to the Natural Resources Trust Fund. It’s all meant for demonstration projects. They were looking to fund unique recreation opportunities that go above and beyond the minimums for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance.”

Donnelly said the launch system at Bishop Lake can be used by able-bodied paddlers as well. He expects it will be a hit with many of the paddlers who come out and explore the waterway.

The Brighton State Recreation Area also has an ADA accessible riding stable where a mechanical device helps riders mount horses along with a one-mile plus woodland trail for those in wheelchairs. The 4,947 acre area is located in Livingston County. It has five campgrounds, 40 miles of trail for equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers and four rustic, family cabins, one of which is accessible.

Rifle River State Recreation Area Rifle River State Recreation Area also has a variety of accessible attractions.  The 4,449 acre area in Ogemaw County has seven lakes, three ponds and seven miles of trout stream . It has almost 15 miles of trail, five campgrounds and five accessible rustic cabins.

“It’s a similar situation there but we focus more on hunting and wildlife interpretation,” said Lord. “There has been some trail surfacing and improvement and we cluster these opportunities near each other so people can do more than one thing.

“We’ve recognized this (absence of easy water launches) as a gap.”

Brighton’s new canoe and kayak launch system cost $27,000 to install, according to Lord. The Rifle River project cost $95,000 and was combined with the construction of a handicap fishing pier.

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Copyright © 2013 Howard Meyerson

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