Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Access for all at the river park

    As a paraplegic wheelchair user and local outdoorsman, I’m excited about the enhanced recreational access opportunities the proposed River Park at Sun Peak will provide for people like myself. However, I’ve heard comments regarding disabled access to the park being made by able-bodied people with little understanding of the true needs of wheelchair users and others with mobility limitations.
    In particular, the proposed parking area adjacent to Hulen Pond seems to be an issue. It seems those opposed to the current plan would prefer all parking, including disabled spaces, to be located on the east side of the river. This would leave wheelchair users and others with mobility limitations with a relatively long haul over pathways to get to the pond, which will still be the central feature of the park. Baseless comments like “it’s just a sediment trap,” or, “this is a sensitive wildlife area” or “virtually no one fishes there anyway” are all smokescreens for some who just don’t want a new parking area adjacent to the pond to impact their views. However it might be mitigated through landscaping.
    This is already a heavily impacted recreational area that is currently wholly inaccessible to people with disabilities thanks to bars across all the surrounding entrance gates. Which might explain why you don’t currently see people in wheelchairs fishing at the pond.
    Thanks to local adaptive recreation groups like Higher Ground, our multiple pathways and accessible trails, and high-profile recreation therapy programs for disabled veterans, the Wood River Valley is slowly putting the all the pieces together to be a world-class recreational destination for people with disabilities. The River Park at Sun Peak will add phenomenal access to the pond and river to that package. A well-designed and landscaped parking area would provide safe, direct access for people with disabilities to Hulen Pond and other proposed river park amenities like an accessible fishing pier. Why is that so threatening?
Erik Schultz

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