Wednesday evening, the city of Richmond became one of the first in the state to install an accessible kayak launch at Lake Reba.

With a shining sun, members of the city commission, parks department, officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, and state legislature joined together in celebration with a ribbon cutting by the launch.

This news brings hope to generate more tourism and outdoor recreation in city limits, and ultimately, people of all abilities to enjoy offerings of the recreational complex.

"I am so excited that this project has come to fruition. We all have different resources and abilities," Erin Moore, director of parks administration and recreation said. "The city of Richmond has a desire to maintain our existing facilities and create more accessible opportunities in the community. KDFWR had the staff and the ability to envision the final product, engineer it to be safe and accessible, and was able to complete the installation. The money secured by State Representative Deanna Frazier and the city's matching funds paid for the kayak launch and installation. The project was accomplished quickly because we communicated throughout the process and used our resources to be able to complete the project and make it a reality. It was a great working relationship."

Frazier agreed.

This launch was installed as part of a pilot project to provide accessibility to individuals with physical impairments or who utilize a wheelchair, while also expanding services to boaters and anglers on the lake. The project was funded through state and local funding opportunities and was supported by Representative Deanna Frazier.

"I learned about this opportunity as a member of the House Tourism and Outdoor Recreation committee," Deanna Frazier, State Representative for Kentucky House District 81, said. "I approached the KDFWR (Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources) staff to see if there was an opportunity in Madison County. They quickly surveyed our possible locations and felt as though Lake Reba was the most current viable location. This has been an ongoing project since 2019 and of course was affected last year by the coronavirus pandemic. This will be an attraction for not only our citizens to enjoy but will also attract others as this is only the second such kayak launch in the state. This launch will create a much safer and steady entry into the waterway and hopefully will encourage people to enjoy Madison County and all we have to offer."

According to Moore, with the new addition of the kayak launch, Lake Reba Park now has several outdoor recreational opportunities that are accessible for people who may have mobility issues. In the future, the park could be marketed to be a destination location for people who want to vacation with their friends or families that utilize wheelchairs.

While in the park, nature lovers can rent a kayak, fish on the pier, play 10 holes of miniature golf, utilize the batting cages, swim at Paradise Cove Aquatic Center, or enjoy the new Inclusive Playground with their loved ones. They can also traverse around the park on the walking trail. If the grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund is approved, a new accessible outdoor fitness court will also be available for recreational opportunities.

"This is a great opportunity that we will be able to offer to our citizens and to others in the state of Kentucky," Moore said.

She said the new launch is a multipurpose structure that will serve as a courtesy dock for boaters and anglers and a launch for kayaks, canoes, or other paddle-craft.

A fully accessible metal ramp is accessible from the parking lot. Kayakers can carry their boat to the top of the hill and guide the boat down to the water area. Typical users will be able to load into their kayak quickly into the water and launch into an area that does not affect boaters who use the boat ramp. If a person needs to use the accessibility feature of the kayak launch, they can park their wheelchair and exit onto the transfer station. Using the above railing, they can transfer down to the kayak, stabilized in the launch area.

Prior to entering the boat, the user will pull out the transfer seat over their kayak, use the straps overhead and transfer onto the seat then into the kayak. Before leaving the platform, they will need to push the seat back into it's original position.

Upon return to the launch area, all kayak users can aim for the launch and pull their boats up to the exiting area. Those who will utilize the transfer station will move forward, pull out the seat, and transfer using the overhead straps. After watching people of all ages and abilities utilize this launch during the Intro to Kayaking Workshop, presented by Mike's Hike & Bike, this launch is easy to use, accessible to all abilities, and will be a highly utilized area in the coming years.

Last year, with the onset of COVID, options were limited for what families could do. However, with the kayak rental at Reba, the parks department saw their highest number of visits going from 501 rentals in 2019, to 1,556 in 2020.

Moore stated the launch is a great way to continue this trend.

"The pandemic created the need for people to learn to recreate differently. Kayak sales and kayak rentals were easy ways to exercise, spend time with family members and be outside- but away from people. Having a launch that is easy to access and use will encourage new kayakers and will excite existing kayakers because of the ease of use," she said.

Following the ribbon cutting, Mike's Hike and Bike conducted an Intro to Kayaking class that discussed different types of kayaks, safety and paddling tips, and general information. There were 15 people who signed up.

After the information on land was complete, Hale took the participants that wanted to try and kayak onto the water and gave them lessons from his boat.

"It was a chilly night and all the kayakers got wet, but there was nothing but smiles when then docked at the end of the night," Moore said.

If anyone is interested to see the live streamed video from that night, or any of the other outdoor workshops and events that are planned for this summer, check out the Richmond Outdoors Community, KY (The ROCK) on Facebook.

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