Facility part of districtwide initiative to provide more accessible amenities and services for people with disabilities in the Forest Preserves of Cook County
June 5, 2021 — Cook County Board and Forest Preserves of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Forest Preserves General Superintendent Arnold Randall were joined today by state and local elected officials for a ribbon-cutting to celebrate a new canoe and kayak launch in Busse Woods that is designed to be accessible for individuals with disabilities.
The site is the latest of more than 20 Forest Preserves locations across Cook County where a paddler can put in a canoe or kayak. Located next to the popular Busse Lake Boating Center, the launch’s accessible features include accessible parking, a paved path to the landing, and a stable and firm surface all the way to the water’s edge at Busse Lake.
“Everyone is welcome in the Forest Preserves. General Superintendent Arnold Randall and his staff have made accessibility part of their focus on equity and inclusion. That work isn’t done. I’m proud to cut the ribbon for yet another facility that helps us fulfill that promise to the people of Cook County,” President Preckwinkle said.
To help individuals with disabilities access and enjoy the Forest Preserves, the district has done a site-by-site evaluation of its nearly 300 picnic groves, 40 waterbodies for fishing, cabins and tent campsites at five campgrounds, boat launches and hundreds of restrooms. On the Forest Preserves’ Accessibility website page, visitors can find the locations that meet specific accessibility criteria, including details like the exact distance between a picnic shelter and the accessible restroom at the site.
“If you are someone with a disability who wants to go camping, or fishing or kayaking—or simply enjoys being out in nature—the Forest Preserves of Cook County wants to be a resource for you,” said General Superintendent Randall.
The focus on improving the experience for people with disabilities across the Preserves includes designing amenities like the canoe and kayak launch with accessibility in mind, adding accessible features to existing facilities like parking lots and picnic shelters during capital improvements or maintenance, and partnering with special recreation organizations to host events dedicated to serving people with disabilities.
The work is informed by the Forest Preserves’ ADA Advisory Committee. Formed in October 2018, the committee consists of representatives from special recreation associations, advocates for people with disabilities, individuals with disabilities and other experts.
“Inclusion starts well before a no-step entrance, an accessible bathroom, a sign language interpreter or an accessible boat launch. Inclusion is about participation of people with disabilities on the front end and back end of projects,” said Gary Arnold, program director from the Progress Center for Independent Living. “Progress Center is pleased to be a part of the Forest Preserves’ ADA Advisory Committee and we applaud the Forest Preserves’ commitment to inclusion by ensuring a wide range of disability participation on the committee.”
Funded in part by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Boat Access Area Development program, the new Busse Lake canoe and kayak launch was completed last fall, with the ribbon-cutting ceremony delayed due to rising COVID-19 rates at the time. Also speaking at the celebration were Illinois State Representative Michelle Mussman, Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison, Elk Grove Village Trustee Sam Lissner, IDNR Assistant Director John Rogner and Monica Voss with nonprofit Adaptive Adventures.
About the Forest Preserves of Cook County
Don’t you sometimes just want to escape? Explore the natural beauty of Cook County for an hour, a day or even a night. When you’re surrounded by 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful there’s no better place to feel free.