ADA docks spurs recreation and economy for NE Wisconsin towns

MANITOWOC, Wis. (WBAY) -- Accessible to all or 'EZ Docks' canoe and kayak launches are popping up on lakes and rivers all over northeast Wisconsin.

The latest one was just installed July 3 on the Manitowoc River.

“You put your kayak down on the launch, you take this metal bench, and slide it out,” explains Curt Hall, parks planner for the City of Manitowoc.

The accessible kayak and canoe launch at Manitou Park is the first of its kind for the city.

“Then what you do is just brace, slide the bench back, put your butt in the seat and get ready to go,” Hall said.

The launch was made possible through funding from the city, the West Foundation and the family of Bill and Barbara Vorron, lifelong members of the Manitowoc community and avid outdoors people.

Bill passed away last year, but the family wanted to carry on his love for the water.

“In lieu of flowers and a memorial, we chipped in for that [the dock] along with the City of Manitowoc, because he was a big kayaker and canoer,” said Eric Shallue, Bill and Barbara Vorron’s nephew.

Now the city is using the dock to launch more recreational activities they hope turns into economic development.

“It's a new dock that’s going to help us establish, what we hope to have, a water trail in the future,” said Hall.

“We're really just trying to connect all of these outdoor resources on the water and off the water so people can come out, put in on the water, paddle downtown, get off, take an adventure downtown or paddle to the zoo.”

The zoological society is raising money to put in an EZ Dock at its boat launch. The zoo is also seeking grant for part of the funds.

Knowing people crave access to outdoor activities, Bellevue installed a similar dock at Manderly Way Park along the East River three years ago.

“Often times, I don't think people associate things like this with economic development but it really is because it's improving the quality of life and amenities for residents here and residents here means more economic development,” said Diane Wessel, Bellevue Village Administrator.

Unfortunately, the dock is landlocked this year after being damaged by spring flooding.

“Some of those support poles got bent, and some of the actual docking itself got damaged during the flood,” said Adam Waszak, recreation supervisor for the village.

It's the only ADA accessible launch along the East River, but the village board has only approved money to take it out.

It would cost another $7,500 to put the dock back in and in a safe place where it won’t get damaged again.

Wessel hopes it will be added to the village’s budget for 2020.