Oakland County Parks and Recreation wins two state awards

Oakland County Parks and Recreation has won two mParks’ (Michigan Recreation and Park Association) state-wide awards for enhancing accessibility for all visitors. One award lauded OCPR’s efforts to increase water and trail access and the other praised uniquely designed hay wagons providing access to people of all abilities.
The hay wagons were awarded the Golden Wrench Award which recognizes resourceful staff members who have designed an inventive or resourceful cost or labor saving device. The new increased accessibility projects in the park were selected for mParks Park Design award.
The Park Design award was given to a collection of projects at Addison Oaks, Groveland Oaks and Independence Oaks county parks that included the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) parking spaces and accessible routes constructed to ADA guidelines. These improvements provided universal access to recreation opportunities such as kayaking, fishing, boating and nature hikes.
This focus on providing more access to trails and water came as a result of a recent public survey that showed residents’ top priorities for parks was maintenance and trails. New universally accessible trails now lead to universally accessible recreation opportunities.
“Accessibility for all of our park users is a top priority for Oakland County Parks and Recreation,” Executive Officer Dan Stencil said.  “Our ADA Transition Plans guide our park improvements to ensure that we’re meeting patrons’ needs within the parks and families and friends can enjoy the parks together.”
OCPR staff members were successful in obtaining grants to offset the cost of these projects. A fishing dock and a kayak launch were added to Addison Oaks with funding provided by the Michigan Recreation Passport Grant. The fishing dock was completed in spring 2016 and the kayak launch the previous fall.
Natural Resources Trust Fund Grants were used to construct a fishing dock at Groveland Oaks County Park and a kayak launch at Independence Oaks County Park.  The fishing dock was recently completed and the kayak launch was completed last fall.
OCPR staff managed and installed the projects. They created a boardwalk leading up to the docks and built a special foundation to compensate for soft ground near the water.
OCPR also saw the need to provide visitors of all abilities with the pleasure of a hayride through the parks. However, when searching for an adaptive wagon to purchase, none were found that met the proposed uses for the wagon.  The solution was to build one.
The two new wagons were created using car trailers. The back door folds down becoming a ramp for wheelchair access and many seniors who find steps difficult.  A hand rail gives added support to those walking up the ramp. As 2016 was the first season for the wagons, additional enhancements are continuing to be made. A second handrail is planned for each wagon so that a caregiver walking a rider up the ramp will also have a handrail for support.
Sand was mixed with paint on the ramp of the wagon to provide a non-slick surface for caregivers providing assistance and those with walkers. 
Special latches were built to lock the wheelchairs in place. The two benches on either side are open on one end to allow someone in a wheelchair to transfer onto the bench if they prefer.
Each wagon holds 20 people including two wheelchairs. The new wagons have been added to the parks system’s fleet, providing additional recreational opportunities for park visitors.
Oakland County Parks Supervisor and Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Sandy Dorey has used the wagons for several events including adaptive and senior programs.
“The seniors at the Buhl Estate historical tours at Addison Oaks County Park gave us many rave reviews,” she said.  “Many of them had not been on a wagon ride in years.  The design of the new wagons made it easy for them to walk right up the ramp.  Most wagons have steps that are difficult to maneuver.”
Dorey said at a parks campground program, a grandparent was able to join the family for a ride because of the wagon’s accessibility.
For information on Oakland County Parks and Recreation, visit OaklandCountyParks.com. Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.