Posted: 11:21 PM Jun 22, 2010
Reporter: Heather Biance
Email Address: email@example.com
Billy Joe Rish Camp is the only one in the state that is exclusive to those with disabilities.
It may look like just a typical day at the pool, but this experience for these disabled men and women is anything but ordinary.
“My favorite thing about it is enjoying the pool, walking around the beach,” says park visitor Willie Carter.
The Billy Joe Rish Park in Cape San Blas, Florida reopened its doors in February after a major makeover.
The olympic-size pool has a wheelchair ramp, a boardwalk all the way to the beach and a mat that allows those who rely on two wheels, the ability to truly experience the Gulf’s waters.
The mat is called a mobimat. It was donated to the park after it was used at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“For the first time in my entire time using this park, over 11 years, I was able to put my foot in the Gulf of Mexico, without anybody’s help. It was really priceless,” says Rish Park visitor JR Harding, Ed.D.
That independence was the vision of Billy Joe Rish.
The former state Representative – who died in 2008 – was a huge advocate for the disabled before many others were.
“It just makes my heart soar that otherwise, these fine people would not have the ability to come experience what so many of us take for granted,” says Billy Joe Rish’s Son, Jay Rish.
The Rish Family says their husband and father would be ecstatic to see what the park has become and what it means to those who enjoy it.
“I hope to come back again,” says Willie Carter.
“I want to come again,” says Floyd Nelson.
And THAT is exactly what it’s all about.
“There are very few spots in the United States, this pristine, beautiful and natural. But to have it fully accessible and fully designed for people with disabilities, of all kinds, is what really makes this unique,” says Jim DeBeaugrine, the Director for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. (APD Manages the facility.)
The visionaries of the park plan to add a miniature golf course, RV park, wheelchair accessible tree fort and nature trails.
They say between private and state funding, they hope to have these completed within the next five years.
For more details about Rish Park, go to: http://www.apd.myflorida.com/rish-park/