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Wingfoot Lake State Park improves accessibility for disabled kayakers

Jul 01, 2023Jul 01, 2023

People with mobility issues who enjoy kayaking now have a welcoming place at Wingfoot Lake State Park in Portage County.

An Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant kayak launch platform was recently installed at the park, by the Lakefront Shelter Point. It can be accessed via the park entrance, Goodyear Park Boulevard, off the south side of Waterloo Road in Suffield Township, west of state Route 43.

"It has all the features that will allow anyone that has mobility devices and/or needs to access it," said Wingfoot Lake Park Manager Mike Studeny.

A dedication ceremony, including a ribbon cutting, is planned for 11 a.m. June 9. Studeny said the platform opened to the public early this past week.

"People are on it," he said on Friday. "They're fishing off of it. I have not seen anybody launch a kayak off of it, but people are using it."

Studeny said the launch is to increase inclusiveness and accessibility and is the result of requests made from people around the area to various agencies, such as the Portage County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

"And it was something that I've always been passionate about and wanted to put that into the park for folks to have access to the water so they can enjoy kayaking or navigating the waters even more more easily," said Studeny.

It was installed around May 26, he said.

"We had to let it kind of sit and settle for several days once we had it put in," said Studeny.

Studeny said the 15-by-20-foot platform includes room for such devices as wheelchairs and scooters and a transfer bench that people can move to from such a device and then transfer into a kayak.

There is also a standard kayak launch on the platform for a nondisabled person who is with someone with a disability to launch in a kayak of their own and a bench to just sit if they are not going out. In addition, there are fishing pole holders, stainless steel handrails around the platform for safety and a 30-foot gangway from a new paved walkway to the platform.

"It allows for a smooth transition from a parking lotto the water's edge and then they will access that gangway," said Studeny.

Studeny said the $63,000 cost, including the platform and its installation and the walkway, was paid for by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. through the Ohio State Parks Foundation. Goodyear has close ties to the park since its airship operating facility on the lake's south side

"We tip our caps and have a wonderful partnership with Goodyear, making a dream that I had actually into a reality," said Studeny.

Goodyear's help does not end there.

Starting Thursday, volunteer Goodyear employees, as part of the company's volunteer week, are working in the park, painting, landscaping, planting flowers, mulching.

"So they're going to be helping us beautify the park," he said.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at [email protected].