Stephens Lake Wheelchair

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COLUMBIA - Some members of the wheelchair community in Columbia expressed their frustration Thursday, waiting for for the city to launch its improvements at Stephens Lake Park.

Alan Rainwater of Columbia uses a wheelchair and said it is very difficult for him to move across the sandy beach at the park.  He would like to be able to get into the water with a special flotation device for his physical theraphy but says the park's infrastructure keeps him from doing so.  He also said it is very difficult to find ramps along Walnut Street to enter the park.

A caretaker of a woman in a wheelchair said the beach is tough to push her client across.  She said she is usually fairly pleased with Stephens Lake Park's handicap access, but she sees major room for improvement at the beach and along some bumpy sidewalks.

In June, city council member Barbara Hoppe proposed a six-foot-wide access ramp across the Stephens Lake Park beach into the water.  At Monday's city council meeting, the city manager agreed that the city would proceed with the project pending the coucil's approval, as the funds necessary for it are already in place.  GetAboutColumbia provided the money for the improvements.  The city expects to use $5,000 of that budget to build the beach ramp.  The city will use the other $5,000 for sidewalk repairs along North Walnut Street between William Street and Old 63.

Columbia Parks and Recreation told KOMU 8 it has received several requests for action from members of the wheelchair community.

The city staff expects to begin construction on the ramp sometime in October after the beach closes September 30.  The city hopes to have the project completed when the beach opens in May 2012.