Ludington State Park on a Mission to be Accessible for All
Jamie Spore has lived in Mason County her whole life and has always enjoyed Ludington State Park.
But it’s only just a few days ago that she was able to access parts like the Logging Trail with the park’s brand new Action Track (all terrain) chair.
“There’s no word for being able to access something that you never thought that you would be able to,” she says, through watery eyes. “I felt like I was a little kid again. It was just like that feeling of gratitude, excitement of not only seeing something new, but also seeing something that you never thought that you’d see.”
She’s also Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2016. In that role, and throughout life, she has been an advocate for people with mobility challenges.
Friends of Ludington State Park, a 501(c)3, is helping to fulfill the park’s mission to be accessible for all.
They’ve helped raise funds for projects like the track chair, SeeCoast EnChroma Color Blind Scenic Viewers, universally accessible kayak ramp, wheelchair and sensory-friendly playground and beach ramps.
“We’ve done it without having declared it up front, [that] is, trying to make the Ludington State Park the most accessible state park in the State of Michigan,” says Friends of Ludington State Park President, Patrick O’Hare. “We are trying to be a model park, not because we just want to be a model park, but it’s the right thing to do.”
The accessible and sensory-friendly playground is a few years old, and though Spore herself is 40 years-old, she still enjoys being able to play on the playground with her nieces. It’s a memory she fondly remembers of her childhood, though it was much different before the American with Disabilities Act was enacted.
“As a child, my mom would carry me up the stairs and then push me down the slide, and then my dad would be or my sister would be waiting at the bottom to catch me,” she says. “Now, with this new playground, I’m able to wheel my wheelchair up into the playground equipment slide down to the entrance of the slide and then slide down it.”
Friends of Ludington State Park, established in 1992, works to provide capital projects like the playground or track chair, and offers special programming like summer concerts and Birds of Prey presentation.
They were created to support the park and ensure their guests make memories. And last year they had nearly 1 million guests.
“While the individual in the chair is benefiting, so is the entire family in terms of the experience and making memories,” says O’Hare. “When you think in terms of your visit to the state park, your use of these facilities, it’s about making memories.”
They can’t do it alone. They need help from volunteers but also donations to make track chairs and other projects possible.
They already know the first track chair will be a success and well used.
“I think there was two different occasions that the [Sauble Point] Lighthouse Keepers Association indicated that individuals showed up at the big the lighthouse and mentioned the fact that they had to leave a loved one in a wheelchair halfway out because they couldn’t push the wheelchair all the way up,” says O’Hare.
But with the battery life of the chair they will have to limit the number of guests per day.
They have already started fundraising for another. So far, they have raised $5,800 out of the $13,500 necessary. They hope to be able to have a second track chair for guests to use by next year.
To donate to the cause of a new track chair or to donate to a different Michigan State Park track chair fundraiser, visit here or texting CHAIRS to 71777.