Getting back on the water

September 13, 2016

Bridgeton Township Boat Launch

The idea started with a need close to home. Susan Reagan loved to kayak, but mobility issues threatened to keep her on shore.

Realizing that she was one of many for whom climbing into a bobbing kayak wasn’t safe or possible, she began looking for a solution. She and her husband Michael, Bridgeton Township’s supervisor, gathered a diverse group of partners who rallied around a central cause.

“It all came back to not just getting people to the water, but getting them on the water,” said Susan.

Research led them to an accessible dock system featuring sliding transfer benches, launch rollers, and railings that allow anyone to safely go from the dock to their kayak or canoe and into the water. Thanks to persistence and community support, including a grant from the Amazing X Charitable Trust, the docks are now in place at the Maple Island and Bridgeton launches on the Muskegon River.

“What made it successful was the local support,” said Michael. “Not many places have barrier-free entry and exit points on the river.”

In addition to allowing more people with mobility challenges to enjoy the river, the project has had other positive effects. Property owner Bruce Nelson—who remembers Charlton Heston coming to fish on the Muskegon—has noticed people making more of an effort to clean up along the river. Susan said the docks are also popular with families who can now load children and supplies into a canoe without fear that it will tip or float away.

“The whole idea is that everyone gets to use it now,” Susan said. “Accessibility means addressing whatever is keeping you on shore.”