Remote town adding wheelchair access

  • Sun Apr 4th, 2010 9:02pm
  • News

Associated Press

STEHEKIN — In this remote town only reachable by boat, plane or foot, town officials are making plans to make it more wheelchair friendly.

Several projects have been completed or are in the works that would make Stehekin more accessible for people in wheelchairs, including new tour buses, restrooms and a nature trail and a boat dock that will comply with standards in the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the Wenatchee World.

“We’re really excited. People with accessibility needs are going to be able to come up and enjoy Stehekin,” said Kerry Olson, spokeswoman for North Cascades National Park.

Located at the head of Lake Chelan in the rugged Cascades in central Washington, Stehekin is a small community that has no roads leading to it. The outpost serves as a gateway to the national park.

In 2009, the National Park Service replaced old tour buses with new biodiesel buses that can accommodate people with limited mobility.

Wheelchair-friendly bathrooms are nearly completed. A paved trail to the lower pool of Rainbow Falls — Stehekin’s most popular day tour — is nearly done as well.

The biggest project, a new boat dock, won’t be ready until 2011.

Officials, though, say that people in wheelchairs shouldn’t have any problems getting on or off ferries this summer.

“In general, as soon as the lake drops a couple of feet below full pool, embarking and disembarking from the passenger ferries becomes pretty challenging,” Cook said.

“It hasn’t been easy to get handicapped people around,” said Heidi Soehren, who takes reservations for the Stehekin Landing Resort.

She added that the community welcomes the changes.