James River gets one of a kind access ramp

Published: Nov. 3, 2011 at 4:44 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2011 at 7:36 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -  Volunteers are putting in a huge addition to the James River. It's one that will affect many people who enjoy the outdoors in the city. It's also the first of its kind in Richmond.

Dominion Power and the James River Park crews are hard at work at Reedy Creek Park, laying a foundation for a boat access. It will make life a lot easier for disabled kayakers like Sally Wetzler.

"It's going to be much easier than having to hop chairs up and down the ramp or down on my back side, said Wetzler."

The brand new ramp will extend from the top of the bank to the river with a flat staging area for equipment. The moderate slope will help accommodate people in wheelchairs and with walking canes. It's the first of it's kind in the Richmond area. Volunteers are also replacing the old steps with new ones.

"We've known for a long time we could use a ramp here," Wetzler added.

During the summer months, dozens of disabled athletes come out here with different groups. Dominion Power and the James River Outdoor Coalition (JROC) each donated $5,000 to revamp the wheelchair access.

"It's great to watch the river open up," said JROC Vice President, Greg Velzy."Also, the neat thing is, when folks are on the water, it's a great equalizer so you don't know if someone is disabled or not."

It's a special project that took off quickly for Velzy, who has envisioned this day for years.

"When Dominion stepped up and said we'd like to make this happen, it was just a whirlwind getting this started and it's been tremendous of them to help out," Velzy noted.

As this new ramp opens, Velzy and Wetzler hope more disabled folks will take advantage of an opportunity they thought they could never access.

"A lot of people look at the river from a distance because of their disability and don' think they can get to it," Velzy said. "With this access, they'll say I can get to it so I can do it."

Volunteers hope to wrap up the project in a few weeks.

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