HOUGHTON COUNTY, Mich. (WZMQ) – Trails, parks, and beaches in the Western U.P. will soon become more handicap accessible.
The Keweenaw’s natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities draw thousands of tourists every year. They also play a role in bringing in new residents to the area, while giving those who are already living there a reason to stay.
“I moved up here because it’s a beautiful area to get outside and recreate,” said Brad Barnett, the executive director of Visit Keweenaw.
But a lot of the most popular and scenic places to see are hard to get too, making them difficult for those with physical disabilities and older residents to enjoy.
Visit Keweenaw, the Keweenaw Community Foundation and the Western U.P. Planning and Development Region, or WUPPDR, have joined forces to form the Accessible Keweenaw Initiative. The goal is to update pathways and access points on trails, beaches, and parks around Keweenaw and Houghton Counties.
Much of the existing infrastructure hasn’t been updated since before the American Disabilities Act of 1990 was passed.
“We really want to make sure that people who have lived here and want to grow old here can still access the places they love,” explained Barnett.
Brockway Mountain Drive all the way to Canyon Falls and everywhere in between are being looked at for improvements. The first step in the plan is to send experts to recreation areas and create assessments of what changes need to be made.
“Then once we have those assessments done we have the data to go to larger funders like the state and show what we need to make these accessible to everyone,” explained Robin Meneguzzo with the Keweenaw Community Foundation.
The assessment is set to be completed this summer, and a tentative timeline to begin fundraising for upgrades is set for October.