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Disability Action Center NW

ADA-compliant ramp a water wonder at Atlas Park

Swimmers enjoy the Spokane River near the new wheelchair-accessible kayak ramp at Atlas Park on Monday.

COEUR d’ALENE — A celebration of the new ADA-compliant ramp at Atlas Park is set for July 23 — but some who aren’t supposed to are already using it.

And even abusing it.

Kids were climbing on the ramp as a launching point for swimming and snorkeling in the inviting clear waters of the Spokane River Monday afternoon. Not a big deal in itself as there’s nothing to indicate they shouldn’t.

That’s about to change.

The city plans to install signs asking folks to stay off the ramp, which has also already been vandalized several times, including a broken railing.

“They’re using it like a jungle gym,” said Bill Greenwood, director of parks for the city of Coeur d’Alene.

The ramp is for those with special needs, he added.

A wheelchair-accessible kayak launch is also just downriver.

“Anyone can use it but it’s designed for the disabled community,” Greenwood said.

The ramp will be put to good use July 23 when the Disability Action Center in Post Falls celebrates there. Several will try the ramp, a proclamation will be read and lunch from Pita Pit will be served at noon.

Michelle Porter, DAC independent living specialist, said the ramp will allow those in wheelchairs to basically roll themselves into the water, secure the chair, and drift away on a flotation device.

Such a ramp is rare, Porter said. The kayak launch, which allows a person to transfer from wheelchair to kayak, and the dog park are also both ADA-compliant.

“You now have a place that’s accessible,” she said. “This is amazing.”

Greenwood said Atlas Park has proven popular this summer. It has trails, open space, a playground and waterfront access.

“This park hits a lot of the things that the public asked for in our master plan,” he said.

“The big thing for me is, it’s ADA-compliant,” Greenwood added.