handrails

Wayne Benson of Kankakee pushes off from the courtesy dock at Ninth Street boat ramp to beginning his fishing. Benson gives his approval of the new handrails at the dock. Photo by Valorie Eversole

Wayne Benson of Kankakee fishes at Lake Shelbyville a couple of times a week and admits that as he gets older, it is getting harder to get in and out of his boat. But a cooperative effort by the Central Illinois Sportmen for Outdoor Accessibility (CISOA), the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is aiding those with physical disabilities who want to enjoy recreational activities at Lake Shelbyville.

Two pairs of new bright yellow handrails were installed on courtesy docks at Dam West and Bo Wood recreational areas in July.

“The group ultimately wants to have hand rails at every dock around the lake,” said Maria Shafer, assistant manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Shelbyville. These docks include those at Lithia Springs, Possum Creek, Coon Creek, Lone Point, Eagle Creek, Wolf Creek, Whitley and Wilborne Recreational areas.

“The handrails that were installed last year were not substantial enough,” Shafer said. “There were boats running into them. The design has been switched out and they are more substantial.”

The handrails were designed and made by Agri-Fab in Sullivan who donated the materials and labor.

“They are very strong and very sturdy. We’re really pleased with them,” said Bob Kerans of CISOA. “All the comments we received have been positive. We are very pleased.”

“Our goal is to make the outdoors in general - hunting, fishing, boating - accessible to folks who have physical disabilities,” Kerans said. “We’re hoping to open things up a bit for them.”

Shafer commended the work of the CISOA.

“This group is very active in trying to improve accessibility around the lake,” she said.

“We have a great partnership with the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Natural Resources which made it work,” Kearns added.

Benson said he is very pleased with the new rails.

“The rails they had here last year didn’t last,” Benson said.

“These are wonderful. It makes it so much easier to get in and out of my boat. I approve,” he said with a thumbs up.

The CISOA is focusing on projects in Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Dewitt, Christian, and Shelby counties, including Lake Shelbyville. Any group or individual who would like to join the organization is welcome and may contact Kerans at 217-414-0093.

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