Ames City Council increases accessibility at Ada Hayden Park


Parkgoers fishing at Ada Hayden Heritage Park. The park is home to two lakes, which are used for activities such as fishing and boating. 

Ames City Council is set to unveil a new accessibility ramp at Ada Hayden Heritage Park later this month.

The initiative began in the fall of 2019 when the group Access Ada Hayden approached the Parks and Recreation Department with an idea to increase accessibility at Ada Hayden, which was later passed on to the council and ultimately approved. It started with simple conversations among paddlers who were experiencing difficulties entering and exiting their boats, said David Denham, one of the organizers of Access Ada Hayden.

Raising money proved to be a difficult task, but wide community support helped soften the impact.

The rough estimate for the production of the ramp was about $85,000, with the city providing $50,000. The city of Ames, in collaboration with a number of outdoor recreation groups, raised more than $36,000 through Access Ada Hayden’s campaign for the accessible launch project.

The launch makes it simpler for adaptive paddlers, such as those who are in wheelchairs or have mobility challenges, to get into a canoe or kayak. A kayak or canoe can be lowered into the water using this system, which also includes a floating dock, a gangway with handrails and an adjacent sloped chute. Paddlers are assisted in getting into the boat by a sliding bench with straps and handrails above.

Keith Abraham, director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Ames, said that one of the Council’s goals in improving recreational amenities across Ames is to ensure all residents can enjoy being outdoors.

“We continue to seek ways to expand parks, facilities and programs to be inclusive, and we encourage everyone to explore our offerings and share ideas with us for new options,” Abraham said.

There was not a survey conducted to see the number of people who would use it; rather, the project was done to make the parks more accessible, according to Abraham.

The ramp is not exclusively for those with disabilities; it will serve as access to the lake for those who require additional assistance (i.e. individuals with balance issues, or someone who has had a knee replacement).

Another initiative the city of Ames took on was the creation of Ames Miracle Park with inclusive playgrounds. The park brought in $2.4 million from private donors, with the city providing $60,000.

The ground of the park is made of rubber surfaces, which makes them flat and helps people with mobility devices or walkers enjoy themselves.

Abraham said several parents have appreciated the step taken by the city as they said they could never push their children down the slides because they could not access them.

The Council is still surging on with their accessibility initiative by contracting WT Group, an engineering consultancy firm based in Chicago, to have them prepare an Americans with Disabilities Act audit to check whether there is some room for improvement around Ames.

The Ames Parks and Recreation Department will celebrate the new accessibility ramp at Ada Hayden Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 21 on the north side of the lake.