Accessibility and inclusion are key priorities for Erie County Parks. Accessibility is forefront in every project we undertake. Working with the Erie County Office of Disability, and community partners, Erie County Parks continues to improve access and inclusion park-wide. Between shelters, buildings, and playgrounds, Erie County Parks is striving to ensure Parks are here for EVERYONE.
In 2022, Erie County Parks, in partnership with the Chestnut Ridge Conservancy, opened the Playground for All at Chestnut Ridge Park. Located adjacent the iconic Chestnut Ridge Casino, the playground features new walkways from our newly resurfaced parking lot, accessible play features, and will soon also feature universal design picnic tables.
By Summer 2023, five additional additional accessible playgrounds will be complete and open to the public in each of our five Heritage Parks: Chestnut Ridge Park, Ellicott Creek Park, Emery Park, Akron Falls Park and Como Lake Park.
In 2023-25, several more accessible playgrounds will begin construction phases in additional park areas, such as Tow Path Park and planning efforts for another playground in Chestnut Ridge. Stay tuned!
Universal Picnic Tables
Starting in 2023, all Erie County Parks rentable shelters will include universal picnic tables to accommodate wheelchairs. By 2024, all Parks picnic tables will be replaced with universal picnic tables.
In 2022, Erie County Parks completed upgrades to the Chestnut Ridge Park Fishing Pier to ensure accessibility for all. These included installation of a ramp, lowered railing portions, and an accessible fish frame for documenting your catch!
Public Transit and the Parks Adventure Bus
Several parks can be accessed using public transit. To view bus routes and local parks, use the map found HERE.
In 2022, Erie County Parks partnered with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to offer the Adventure Bus. The Adventure Bus offers free transportation to park areas throughout Erie County which are not already serviced by mass transit. The Adventure Bus addresses equity and accessibility challenges by providing free transportation from the heart of Buffalo to our natural areas. As a planned route, any of the Adventure Bus routes are also served by the NFTA Para Transit Program (PAL), too! For more information on the PAL service, please check out their website at https://metro.nfta.com/special-services/pal-direct-information or call 716-855-7268 (voice) / 1-800-662-1220 or 711 (relay).
We are excited to offer this again in 2023 with expanded service to several more park areas! Check out the Adventure Bus website for updated schedule and program information!
In 2020, Erie County Parks installed beach matting at Bennett Beach park from the bridge out to the beach. While not yet connecting the main parking lot, the matting does ease access to the beach for individuals with any type of wheeled device or who have difficulty traversing the sand. Patron response has been tremendously positive.
Accessible Shelters and Restroom Facilities
We have several fully-accessible shelters, such as Shelter #8 at Chestnut Ridge Park. Also, we offer an adult-size changing table in our Family Restroom in the Chestnut Ridge Casino. We are pleased to offer this hard-to-find and much-needed resource to the Erie County community.
Plans for the Future
Erie County Parks is making accessibility a critical part of every conversation involving new projects. Some concepts being discussed include additional accessible structures, new walkways, accessible playgrounds, accessible trail systems, trail and beach mobility devices, and programs to increase access to parks for individuals and youth with access barriers such as lack of transportation.
How can we do better?
Are you a park user with accessibility concerns? We would love to hear how Erie County Parks can respond to meet your needs. Please give the Erie County Office of People with Disabilities a call to discuss your ideas at (716) 858-6215.
For more information on DEI-related history and best practices in parks and recreation, we encourage you to visit https://www.nrpa.org/our-work/Three-Pillars/equity/.