A new ADA accessible kayak launch at Lake Shawnee’s south boat ramp makes kayaking accessible to patrons using wheelchairs, the elderly or anyone else who needs some assistance entering and exiting a kayak. Lyle Babcock, coordinator for the Kansas Chapter of Heroes on the Water, approached Shawnee County Parks + Recreation about installing the kayak launch. SCP+R and the Parks for All Foundation combined to purchase the $53,714.50 device.
Babcock worked with SCP+R and the company that supplied the kayak launch. The apparatus enables a person to sit on a bench and slide over and down a level directly over and into the seat of a kayak. A person with upper body strength can then use rails alongside the launch ramp to propel themselves into and back out of the water. Able bodied individuals can also assist a person with getting the kayak on and off of the launch.
The Kansas Chapter of Heroes on the Water, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, began in 2014. The program helps veterans and first responders unwind using the therapeutic qualities of fishing from kayaks. The group hosts weekly outings for inpatients at the Colmery O’Neil V.A. Medical Center.
“We let Mother Nature do what Mother Nature does best,” explains Babcock. “It gets vets and first responders back out and reengages the family again.”
He tells the story of a family in which the mother had PTSD and didn’t want to leave the house. After an initial trip and three more visits, the family had purchased their own kayaks to
come out to the lake.
“We are thrilled that this boat launch has been installed for not only our use but for anyone else that uses Lake Shawnee,” said Babcock. “It will help expose individuals to kayaking that never thought they would get the opportunity to experience it.”