Sensory and mobility disabilities are no reason to miss out on the Alaska experience.
"People with disabilities and the elderly often find themselves unable to enjoy things that most of us take for granted, in part due to lack of accessibility," said Heather Frison of the Independent Living Center in Soldotna. "We'd like to see everyone have an equal opportunity to take part in activities if they choose -- be it camping, fishing or just going out to have a nice dinner."
While not all recreation opportunities are designed for people with disabilities, Frison wants to make sure people know just how many are accessible. She has put together a pamphlet for the Independent Living Center highlighting accessible recreation opportunities throughout the Kenai Peninsula.
The booklet is organized by region -- Homer, Kenai- Soldotna and Seward -- and lists parks, lodging and fishing opportunities, as well as other accessible businesses. It also outlines the level of accessibility of each location -- some parks have accessible campgrounds, but not rest rooms; some have accessible rest rooms, but not fishing or lodging.
The booklet is based on information provided by agencies and businesses, as well as recommendations from area people experiencing disabilities.
The pamphlet lists a number of recreation opportunities in the Kenai-Soldotna area, including the following:
Captain Cook State Recreation Area, Mile 36 to 38.5, Kenai Spur Highway -- Bishop Creek, Stormy Lake Beach, Stormy Lake boat launch and the Stormy Lake day use area all offer accessible water sources. There is no parking fee at these locations. The day use area offers accessible picnic sites.
Kenai River Special Management Area -- Accessible rest rooms are available at The Pillars; Big Eddy, Ciechanski and Slikok Creek day use areas; Bing's Landing, Cooper Landing, Izaak Walton and Morgan's Landing. Bing's Landing, at Mile 79 of the Sterling Highway, also offers accessible water, picnic shelters and fishing, as well as 37 accessible camp sites. Cooper Landing, at Mile 47.8 of the Sterling Highway, offers accessible water and boat launch. Izaak Walton, at Mile 81 of the Sterling Highway, includes accessible water and 26 camp sites. Morgan's Landing, at Mile 85 of the Sterling Highway, has accessible water and 42 camp sites.
Clam Gulch State Recreation Area, Mile 117, Sterling Highway offers accessible rest rooms, water and picnic shelters.
Crooked Creek State Recreation Area, Coho Loop Road has 79 accessible camp sites, 30 accessible picnic sites and accessible fishing.
Kasilof River State Recreation Area, Mile 109.5, Sterling Highway has accessible rest rooms.
Johnson Lake, Mile 110, Sterling Highway has accessible rest rooms, water and picnic shelters.
Wildflower International Inn in Soldotna offers spacious, fully accessible hotel rooms and common areas. Restrooms include roll-in showers, an optional bath bench, hand-held showers and accessible water controls. The inn uses Kirby Systems in housekeeping to accommodate people with respiratory concerns, and smoking is allowed outdoors only. With advanced notice, meals can be catered to meet specific dietary needs.
The King's Inn in Kenai has two accessible rooms with ramped entrances, widened doors and a 3-foot space next to beds. Bathrooms have wide doors and grab bars, but not roll-in or hand-held showers. Sinks and toilets are accessible.
The Aspen Hotel in Soldotna also is listed as wheelchair accessible.
Kenai King Drifters drift boat guide service provides fishing and sightseeing trips on the Kasilof and Kenai rivers. The company will supply adaptive fishing equipment and will help transfer fishers with mobility disabilities if necessary. For more information, call (907) 653-7648 or (907) 262-6654.
The Last Frontiersman guide Dan McDowell offers Kenai River taxi and scenic tours, fishing guide services and riverside log cabin rentals. The business, which operates a specially-designed wheelchair accessible boat, is recommended in the Independent Living Center pamphlet and received the Barrier Award from the governor's Committee of Employment and Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities. For more information, call 262-1046 in the summer or (907) 232-8057 year round.
Frison added that many other area guides will make accommodations for fishers with mobility or sensory disabilities, though a complete list is not available.
Homer and Seward also have a number of accessible recreation and lodging opportunities, including state parks, inns, the Carl E. Wynn Nature Center, Kenai Fjords National Park and the Alaska SeaLife Center. They are listed in the free pamphlet, available at the Soldotna Visitors Center and the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.
Other area recreation resources for people with disabilities include:
Alaska Welcomes You Inc., a travel specialist offering customized itineraries for everything from cruises and tours to wildlife viewing to kayaking to fishing. Based in Anchorage, the company offers travel planning for trips throughout the state of Alaska. It is a for-profit company, not a social services agency, but is an Americans with Disabilities Act partner providing travel opportunities with people with all ranges of disabilities. For more information, call (907) 349-6301 or write 7321 Branche Drive, Anchorage, AK 99518.
Challenge Alaska is a nonprofit organization providing sports and therapeutic recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. The Girdwood-based organization offers a variety of programs to improve mobility, increase self-confidence and teach specific skills to help people learn to take part in recreation activities independently.
For more information, write to Challenge Alaska, 3350 Commercial Drive, suite 208, Anchorage, AK 99501; call (907) 344-7399, toll free (888) 430-2738 or TTY (907) 344-7270; fax (907) 344-7349; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Challenge Alaska Web site at www.challenge.ak.org.
Independent Living Centers, located in Homer, Seward and Soldotna, work primarily with basic needs, not recreation activities. However, more information may be available at these centers. Call (907) 235-7911 in Homer, (907) 224-8711 in Seward or 262-6333 in Soldotna.
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