On the Boards: William Joe Rish Recreational Park

Eighteen months ago our firm competed and was selected to be the architects of record for new improvements at William J. Rish Park Recreational Park, on St. Joe Peninsula, Florida. Most readers may ask what the significance is to this specific park project. Or why, as architects, we consider it such a relevant design project. Well at least for Florida, William (Billy) Joe Rish Recreational Park is the only park in the state specifically designed for persons with disabilities. For more information regarding this park and amenities please click on this link.

This Park was established in the mid to latter 1960’s. So you might quickly deduce that this park was very much ahead of its time as ADA (Americans with Disability Act) was only implemented in the early 90’s. The client request has been to develop a park that will allow the clientele to experience the natural wonder of Florida’s coastal environment by providing them with experiences that many non-disabled persons take for granted. So for the Hammond Design Group, LLC, this is a unique design project requiring evaluation of every aspect of design to be viewed through the lens of accessibility. That included not only those with physical mobility issues, but also persons with seeing, hearing and cognitive disabilities. It has been an interesting design project and proves to be challenging when all ADA design aspects are evaluated and acted upon. Typically as an architect, I see the immediate issues with persons with physical challenges. However, when one is asked to view all aspects of the design for the various aspects of sight, hearing and cognitive disabilities, additional challenges for the designer are ever present. For park clientele with sight restrictions it becomes a tactile experience and requires integrating and implementing textures to allow the client to experience the natural environment around them. For hearing impaired it becomes providing engaging written signage.

The park consists of approximately 100 acres of superb coastal beach and bay habitat. Our charge is to develop the bay side of the park project that has fallen into disrepair over the last 15 years. Our scope consists of a connection boardwalk, freshwater fishing platform, toilet facility and a floating dock with an accessible kayak launch transfer station. All the mentioned scope items are ADA compliant. Future scope elements being considered are the implementation of a recreational vehicle overnight park, nature trails and an accessible tree house. Additional park information can be view at this link.

To date the contractor PSBI, is close to completing the 750 linear feet of accessible boardwalk and are working diligently to complete the bay side toilet facility. The completion of these first elements will open the bay side area of the park, which has been inaccessible for in excess of 10 years. Other improvements are anticipated and as we progress there will be discussion of the challenges each project scope item poses. As the project continues to evolve in scope we will be discussing the unique design challenges and our attempt to solve the design issue.

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