Access Ada Hayden to make canoeing, kayaking accessible for people with disabilities

Todd Burras

A new canoe and kayak launch at Ada Hayden Heritage Park Lake in Ames would make it easier for disabled paddlers to get on the water, and, with a little more community support, that goal could be reached yet this year.

Access Ada Hayden and the city of Ames are working to raise enough money to build an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant adaptive launch and dock on the north side of the former quarry-turned lake. Access Ada Hayden is a partnership between the Skunk River Paddlers, Friends of Ada Hayden Heritage Park, the Outdoor Alliance of Story County and JAX Outdoor Gear.

“We started looking at accessible dock and launch systems early in 2019 with the goal of making the lake accessible to all,” said Rick Dietz, a member of the Skunk River Paddlers and primary contact for Access Ada Hayden.

Dietz said the group approached BoardSafe, an aluminum boat dock manufacturer in Fleetwood, Pa., for an estimate on the project. BoardSafe designs an adaptive launch that costs $45,000 and features a large floating platform, an ADA-compliant gangway and a boat slide. The slide stabilizes the canoe or kayak as one enters, and a transfer bench and grab rails accommodate people with a wide range of physical limitations. The launch provides a safe and quick entry into the water for not only disabled paddlers but for anyone who wants to get on the water with a canoe or kayak.

An ADA-compliant adaptive launch and dock for canoes and kayaks, such as this one, is what Access Ada Hayden and the city of Ames are planning to install at Ada Hayden Heritage Park Lake.

To install the launch, however, Dietz said an additional $40,000 was needed for onshore improvements. That’s when a partnership with the city for forged.

“We were successful in getting the city to place it on their Capital Improvements Plan for fiscal year 2021-22,” Dietz said. “(Ames Parks and Recreation Director) Keith (Abraham) budgeted $50,000 towards an estimated $85,000 total cost, leaving $35,000 in anticipated partner funding.”

To meet its obligation, Access Ada Hayden has set up a GoFundMe account, is partnering with JAX Outdoor Gear to sell raffle tickets for a cedar-strip canoe and is accepting donations for the project through the Outdoor Alliance of Story County.

“The Friends of Ada Hayden Heritage Park has made a very generous pledge, and we've received a $6,000 grant from the Story County Community Foundation,” Dietz said. “I've been encouraging my friends to make a coordinated push to raise the remaining $14,000, but they (we) don’t see themselves as fundraisers. But I think we can do it.”

To donate to the project or to purchase raffle tickets for the 15-foot Hiawatha tandem cedar-strip canoe, visit www.facebook.com/accessadahayden or stop at JAX Outdoor Gear, 4723 W. Lincoln Way. The drawing for the canoe will be held May 31 at Ada Hayden Heritage Park. Donations may also be directed to the Outdoor Alliance of Story County by sending checks to: OASC, PO Box 1863, Ames, Iowa 50010. Be sure to note Access Ada Hayden on the check.

Todd Burras can be reached at outdoorstoddburras@gmail.com.