Strouds Run State Park beach will have access for people with mobility disabilities

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A new project at Strouds Run State Park would allow people with mobility disabilities to enjoy one of the park’s most popular attractions. 

On most summer days, the beach at Strouds Run is packed with kids and families enjoying a day at the lake. 

But 14-year-old Jovia Richards is not among them.  

Jovia’s mother, Salem Miller, visited the park nearly three years ago with her family. Miller realized that Jovia, who uses a wheelchair, had no way of getting down to the beach.  

“Her brothers were playing, and Jovia had to sit in the parking lot with me and watch them,” Miller said.  

Davey McNelly of the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities also uses a wheelchair and is an avid beach goer. From his own experience, accessible beaches are hard to find. 

“There’s nothing in this region where someone who uses a wheelchair or someone with a mobility disability can easily get to the beach,” McNelly said. 

A digital map of the beach at Strouds Run State Park.
The proposed route for people with mobility disabilities at Strouds Run State Park. [Map provided by Athens City-County Health Department]
This excludes many people throughout the state from a popular summer activity. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 13% of Ohioans have a mobility disability.  

Meredith Erlewine with the Athens City-County Health Department heard about the stories of Davey and Jovia, and thought their problem should be addressed. 

“Southeast Ohio is known as a place that’s beautiful, and fun for outdoor recreation. So, we all should be able to enjoy those things,” Erlewine said. “And if we can’t all enjoy those things together it’s not really equitable.” 

Motivated to find a solution, Erlewine brought the issue to a committee of community members. Together they came up with a plan that would make Strouds Run the first park within a 100-mile radius with beach access for people with mobility disabilities. 

“If you make something more accessible, it makes it better for everybody,” Erlewine said. “Walking to the beach will not only be easier for someone who uses a wheelchair or a walker, but for anyone who is trying to get down.”  

The health department partnered with the Ohio State Parks Foundation to help raise funds for the accessible beach entrance. The project donations have reached over $30,000 toward its $85,000 goal.  

Those interested in donating or learning more about this project can visit the Athens CityCounty Health Department website.