Handicap accessible fishing pier opens at Lakeview Park

Chris Douglas enjoys casting the first rod off the handicap accessible fishing pier in Lakeview Park prior to the ribboncutting ceremony Monday night. (Kermit Constantine photo)

What was just a mere hope and dream last summer has turned into a reality for a local 18-year-old with cerebral palsy.

Chris Douglas of Waterloo is confined to a wheelchair because of his disease, but absolutely loves to fish.

Douglas and his mother would visit Lakeview Park in Waterloo weekly so Chris could go fishing, but one time, while trying to navigate down to the waterfront, the uneven surfaces caused Chris to fall out of his wheelchair.

The three lakes at Lakeview Park are difficult to navigate for people like Chris, but from now on, that will no longer be an issue.

On Monday, members of the Waterloo community gathered at the park as the sun set over the lake for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the park’s new handicap accessible fishing pier.

The pier features a six-foot-by-30-foot ramp, 16-foot-by-24-foot platform, handrail and two bench seats.

This became possible through the generosity of several local organizations and a grant from the Open Space Lands Acquisition & Development Program by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

At the ceremony, Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith presented all the pier’s contributors with certificates.

Those who donated time and money to make it a possibility include the Backyard Bandits 4-H Club, Rural King, Huebner Concrete, Waterloo Rotary Club, Waterloo Lion’s Club, Prairie State Energy Campus, William Zimmer Family Foundation, Waterloo Optimist Club, Little Caesar’s Pizza, Walmart, HTC, Illinois American Waterloo, AT&T, Waterloo Odd Fellows and the Waterloo Park District.

“This is a great project, and we couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help,” Smith said.

In all, the ADA floating fishing pier project cost about $92,000. The Odd Fellows contributed $20,000 and an additional $41,000 came from the grant.

“Without Waterloo Odd Fellows, this wouldn’t have happened,” Smith said.

The grant was pushed along through the state through State Representative Jerry Costello II and State Senator Dave Luechtefeld.

“Jerry went the extra mile for us,” Smith said.

Costello also thanked Smith for his persistence with the project, saying that nobody would be there at the pier without the mayor.

“This is a great thing, whether you’re young or old, in a wheelchair or not,” Smith said. “We have a great place for everyone to fish, and we’re really proud to have this in our community.”

After the ribbon was cut, Chris and his family went out on the pier to cast the first fishing line.

Chris said he was “very happy” the fishing pier is now in place, which was evident by the huge smile he had on his face the entire time.

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