Delta Township was awarded a grant funding the installation of canoe launches on Grand River that meet the accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
“To the extent we can provide recreational options for all people regardless of challenges they face is rewarding and the right thing to do,” said Brian Reed, township manager.
According to Reed, Delta Township strives to incorporate and exceed these standards anywhere possible. He says, “When constructing new parks, equipment, or amenities it is easier to meet accessible standards than it is retrofitting older equipment in which do not currently meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.”
The township’s 2018 Parks and Recreation Master Plan details many planned recreation facilities that are already funded, so the alterations must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Because the canoe launches are completely new, they make it a great place to ensure accessibility is taken into account from the beginning, according to Reed.
Delta Mills Park was the Township’s first park facility. Launch construction at this site has been awarded to a contractor, however, construction has not yet begun according to Reed.
A $162,000 canoe launch is being constructed at West Willow Highway Park.
Designing a launch with universal accessibility requires specific standards. The dock/launch system includes features such as a stepped transfer bench with an extension that slides out over the launch, and a docking area allowing for wheelchair access and turning radius.
Many township board members view the development of universally accessible parks as a high priority.
At a Delta Township focus group meeting, the group was presented with four questions, and asked to provide feedback for each question. At the end of the meeting, each person was asked to vote for their top five ideas with the highest priorities.
When asked, “what should the Township do to improve existing park facilities,” on Nov. 21, universally accessible swings and/or accessible play equipment for every park was voted as the second highest priority out of 16 options.
To measure the township’s success in improving its parks, a ranking system is used. It ranks a park at one if none of its facilities meet accessibility guidelines. The scale goes up to five. A park scores a five if universal design guidelines were used to design the entire park.
According to the assessment, Delta Mills Park is currently ranked at a two. West Willow Highway Park has not yet been ranked.
Delta Township has a population of 32,408, making it the most populous municipality in Eaton County, according to the 2010 US Census. The township has experienced a higher growth rate over the past two decades than most other municipalities in Michigan.
A high percentage of the population falls in the 35-64 age group, meaning family oriented public recreation is needed. Delta Township is moving toward making parks usable by all families by working with the Disability Network Capital Area, according to Reed.
Disability Network Capital Area has been providing services and resources to people with disabilities since 1976.
Mark Pierce, executive director of the Disability Network Capital Area, supports the development of the Delta Mills Park canoe launch. He says, “It will enhance the quality of life for the residents and visitors of the community.”
In the future, Delta strives to provide access to all users by exceeding barrier-free standards, according to Reed. The township hopes to update or replace existing playgrounds to meet current guidelines. The proposed development for Delta Mills Park will improve parking and provide equal access around the park.
The Delta Mills Park canoe launch will be at 7001 Old River Trail. The West Willow Highway canoe launch is approximately 90 percent built. The last remaining piece to to install a floating dock once the weather clears, according to Reed.