COLUMBIA — The beach at Stephens Lake Park will soon be wheelchair-accessible after a concrete ramp is installed.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe asked the Columbia Parks and Recreation staff in June to look into the possibility of making swimming at Stephens Lake accessible to people who use wheelchairs or who have other disabilities. A 6-foot-wide concrete ramp with two access points into the water would accomplish that, according to a report Parks and Recreation sent to the council.
Hoppe personally understands the need in the community for more wheelchair access. When Stephens Lake Park was owned by Stephens College, Hoppe would often bring a friend who used a wheelchair to the lake because there was a dock and stairs leading to the water.
"She just loved getting into the lake," Hoppe said. "That spurred my interest."
The cost of constructing the ramp is estimated to be $5,000. Money will be taken from an existing fund of $10,000 that is set up to make walkway repairs. Construction will be done by the Parks and Recreation staff, which will save money and also allow the project to be done within the department's preferred time frame.
Construction will take place this winter unless the Columbia City Council decides otherwise.
Parks Services Manager Mike Griggs said construction should last three to four days.
Hoppe said the beauty of the ramp is that it will make the lake more accessible both to people in wheelchairs and to the general public. Families with young children will be able to bring strollers to the beach and grass areas. The ramp will divide sand and turf, keeping grass areas clean. Swimmers will be able to leave the lake without walking through sand.
The key principle behind the project, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said, is making Columbia's facilities accessible to everyone in the community.
Lee Henson, a member of the Columbia Disabilities Commission, said there is always interest from the public in making city properties more accessible.
He added that that ramp sounds like a "great idea."