Cook County officials inaugurated an accessible canoe and kayak launch Saturday at Busse Woods as part of a Forest Preserves of Cook County initiative to provide more accessible amenities and services for people with disabilities.
State and local elected officials joined Cook County Board and Forest Preserves of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Forest Preserves General Superintendent Arnold Randall for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday to mark the opening, which was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s the latest of more than 20 forest preserves sites across Cook County where a paddler can put in a canoe or kayak.
The launch is located next to the Busse Lake Boating Center. Its accessible features include accessible parking, a paved path to the landing, and a stable and firm surface leading to the water’s edge at Busse Lake.
“Everyone is welcome in the forest preserves,” Preckwinkle said in a news release. “General Superintendent Arnold Randall and his staff have made accessibility part of their focus on equity and inclusion. That work isn’t done.”
The forest preserve district has conducted a site-by-site evaluation of its nearly 300 picnic groves, 40 water bodies for fishing, cabins and tent campsites at five campgrounds, boat launches and hundreds of restrooms. Visitors can find locations that meet specific accessibility criteria, including details such as the distance between a picnic shelter and an accessible restroom, on the district’s accessibility webpage.
The focus on improving the experience for people with disabilities includes designing amenities like the canoe and kayak launch with accessibility in mind, adding accessible features to existing facilities like parking lots and picnic shelters, and partnering with special recreation organizations to host events serving people with disabilities.
The forest preserves’ ADA Advisory Committee, formed in October 2018, helped inform the upgrades.
“Inclusion is about participation of people with disabilities on the front end and back end of projects,” said Gary Arnold, program director from the Progress Center for Independent Living.
Busse Lake’s canoe and kayak launch was completed last fall, funded in part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Boat Access Area Development program.