Friends launch $1 million campaign to increase accessibility at Florida’s state parks
Friends of Florida State Parks has launched a $1 million fund raising effort to increase accessibility at Florida’s state parks and has purchased the first powered all-terrain wheelchair to get the campaign off to a great start.
The $7,000 powered all-terrain wheelchair allows people with disabilities access to trails, beaches and other pathways which they otherwise would have difficulty traversing, said Sally Hess, President of the nonprofit Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (FFSP).
“What if when you were a child you could not walk on a beach or down a forest path? And then as an adult, were not able to join your children in either of these activities. Or what if you had loved hiking as a youth, but are now no longer physically capable of even wandering along an unpaved park trail?” she added.
The Access for All campaign aims to remedy this, she said. Twenty projects have been selected, at a cost of almost $1 million, to boost accessibility. FFSP has now launched a major media campaign to raise these much needed funds.
Projects include the purchase of more all-terrain powered wheelchairs. Some parks hope to install a product called Mobi-Mat to create stable pathways over sand or rough terrain to allow manual wheelchair users and anyone using other mobility aids, like canes, crutches or walkers easier access to beaches, lakesides and some trails.
At St. Andrews State Park, a wheelchair marina lift is planned at the boat basin to assist loading and unloading for those with physical disabilities who want to boat or fish.
Other parks are planning universally accessible playgrounds, accessible kayak launches, accessible parking, accessible entrance and exit ramps, decks and boardwalks.
FFSP supports the entire Florida park system by preserving, protecting and ensuring accessibility to state parks, educating visitors about the value of state parks, encouraging community engagement and active use of state parks, and providing financial support to supplement state funding.
Florida’s 171 state parks and trails cover almost 789,000 acres and attracted over 25 million visitors last year whose spending added more than $1.1 billion to local economies. Friends groups and volunteers contributed a record 1.3 million volunteer hours.