Incapacity Advocates Criticize Park’s Closure

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GAINESVILLE, Florida (WCJB) – For many, Labor Day is the last hurray of summer filled with beach time and barbecues, but many in the state’s physically challenged community are left out because the state is reopening the one park that people have with physical disabilities.

Rish Park is located on Cape San Blas on the Panhandle Coast.

The beach park is the only fully accessible outdoor recreational facility in the state.

The park has been closed since Hurricane Michael 2018.

Disability advocates claim the state has worked hard.

“This Labor Day weekend, this beautiful sunshine right now. I would like to be on the beach. Florida colleagues with disabilities want to be on the beach. But Rish Park is closed, ”said attorney Dr. JR Harding.

The drone video, which was recorded in August 2019, 10 months after Michael was hit, shows damage to the beach path, but little else.

“It’s essentially like the Department of Transportation doesn’t know how to build a road,” said environmental engineer Dr. Max Lee.

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Dr. Lee said the park should have been open long ago.

“The park itself opened about two and a half years ago. I’d say eighty, seventy-five percent of that, ”Lee said.

The Agency for People with Disabilities advises that there is no risk of someone being injured by opening the park before it is completely finished.

Proponents, however, argue that disabled people often have a shorter lifespan and three years is a long time.

“So think about your family and what would you do if that were three years away,” said Dr. Harding.

The agency for people with disabilities pointed out that there are other facilities, such as a new ADA-compliant glass-bottom boat in Silver Springs, but Harding and Lee argued that none of the facilities equates to Rish Park amenities.

Rish Park is the only park operated by the Agency for People with Disabilities.

Proponents argue that the state park system would better manage the park than the APD.

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