Anyone that knows me personally can attest that I’m not very humble when it comes to sharing how many steps I’ve accumulated on my Fitbit pedometer. And for those of you who don’t, as of this writing it’s at 15,500,000 (about 6,000 miles). The majority of these miles have been at The Parklands since late 2011.
Like most people, life has thrown me a few curve balls. One of them was in the fall of 2013. I was within a couple of hours of having a memorial park bench with my name on it. Yep, it was bad (I had a twisted bowel) and the recovery from surgery was long and hard — three months of being benched on and off. It was then that I came to appreciate another design feature of “my” park — accessibility.
ACCESSIBLE TO EVERYONE: EGG LAWN REHAB
My first discovery was the lap around the Egg Lawn, which I nicknamed “The Rehab Lap.” So when another curve ball was thrown at me and I injured my knee (meniscus), I knew right where to start. The 3/4 mile Egg Lawn Signature Trail is perfect for a person with a physical limitations for several reasons. It has:
- Many benches for resting
- Parking spots all around the lap for a resting spot if you can’t make it
- A paved trail through the middle (including a small grove of trees)
- No bikes allowed
- 100% flat
Despite all this convenience, you still get to enjoy all the beauty being outdoors offers. On one outing, I saw a gentleman in a wheelchair and his companion behind him with a jump rope. He would pull the chair along with his feet and she would jump rope in place.
We were all smiling being outdoors and hearing the sounds of the park.
FROM WHEELCHAIRS TO RUNNING: EASY LIVIN’ ON THE LOOP
Once I built up strength, I started looking for other places that were easy to manage. One of the most beautiful areas is about 1/3 mile in along the Louisville Loop, starting at the North Beckley Paddling Access near William F. Miles Lakes. Several generations of a family was there one afternoon, pushing a woman in a wheel chair.
Imagine being able to travel along the creek in the shade and seeing all the beauty offered there- despite the need for a wheelchair! Wildflowers, the creek, shade and yes … benches. Everyone in their group found fun at their own level and ability.
STEP IT UP A NOTCH: HIKE!
Next step: Trails. The Sycamore Trail near the Egg Lawn was perfect. A nice easy trail with only a couple of small manageable dips. And of course … a bench. Actually, a group of benches that are handicap accessible from The Loop (called the Gravel Bar Overlook)! They are near the Egg Lawn and overlook the creek. (Insert heavenly music.)
If you’re interested in learning more about the other trails in Beckley Creek Park, you can read this great blog posting by Suzy, called Which Beckley Creek Park Trail is Right for You?
Since 2013, I continue to discover handicap accessible park opportunities everywhere. During one of the members-only “Behind the Scenes” presentations, Scott Martin described how the playground was designed for
handicap children. I’ve used that playground many times with my grandsons and the design is so seamless that we didn’t have a clue. When Scott described what went into building the playground I got pretty weepy.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that a group of children with physical limitations were brought in for feedback. I remember hearing, things like, “We want to be in the middle of the action and equipment that moves”.
And they can. The boat like feature with the wheelchair ramp rocks. Not that the equipment is designed to look like something in particular. It’s whatever a child’s imagination wants it to be. (No pressure park staff, but maybe there will be a blog about the playground someday.)
The accessibility features of The Parklands allow those with disabilities to get out and enjoy our community and reap the healing benefits of being active and outdoors. Whether you are wheelchair bound, using a walker/cane, or a weekend warrior rehabbing a sports injury, The Parklands can serve as a prescription better than any pill.
Story by LaVerne Cook, Parklands Neighbor, Visitor, Member and Volunteer. If you’ve been to the park, you’ve probably run into LaVerne. She’s often spotted walking along the Loop or volunteering with our education programs. She sends us photos of things she sees in the parks and she sends us suggestions and comments all the time. We appreciate all of her contributions to The Parklands, including this blog post, and we truly value her as a Parklands advocate!