South Shore Park Boasts New Connection Path

November 1, 2017

By Sheila Julson

The new path that leads to the waterfront in South Shore Park was designed “switchback-style” to create a gentler slope. Photo Katherine Keller

The final phase of the reconstruction of the South Shore Park parking lot wraps up with the installation of a new path connecting the top of the hill to the parking lot below.

County officials refer to the path as the “universal access connection.” The switchback-style path will provide Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access between the base of the hill and its crest at Shore Drive and Nock Street. The Oak Leaf Trail, waterfront, public piers, and other amenities are located at the base.

Prior to the new path, there was no dedicated walkway along Nock Street in the park itself. Although there is a sidewalk on the north side of Nock, it is intersected by driveways to homes on that side of the street.

Access in the park was restricted to the street or grassy hill, making it difficult for those with mobility challenges, such as the elderly or those using wheelchairs or walkers. Additionally, park officials wanted to install a trail or a walkway to separate pedestrian traffic from vehicle traffic heading to the boat launch or parking lot.

Installation of the universal access connection began Oct. 9, said Jill Organ, the Milwaukee County Parks chief of planning and development.

The connection is 10 feet wide, which Organ said is standard for new park paths. It is 265 feet long, with a slope ranging from a five percent pitch (a 1:20 grade) at the top of the hill, to an 8.33 percent pitch (1:12 grade), near the bottom.

The switchback-style path will provide Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access between the base of the hill and its crest at Shore Drive and Nock Street. Photo Katherine Keller

The new connection is paved with asphalt and includes three rest stops. Milwaukee County Parks Department awarded the project to the lowest bidder, whose bid was lower than what they’d budgeted. “Because of that, the project had funding available in it to the do the longer switchback path and make it fully accessible. We didn’t have to scramble to find additional funding,” Organ said. The final tab was $66,000.

When planning began, it was discovered that the hill’s natural topography slightly exceeded ADA guidelines for allowable slope pertaining to outdoor recreation access routes. To be in compliance, the plan was redrafted, creating the switchback-style route with a gentler slope.

The term ‘universal access connection’ is part of disability rights activists’ ongoing efforts to make positive linguistic changes, such as using “accessibility” rather than “disability” when referring to products, services, and environments for people with disability. “We kept hearing people saying ‘universal accessibility,’ which is access for everyone, everywhere — older people and people with or without disabilities,” Organ said.

In 2006, the National Youth Leadership Network, advised, “When talking about places with accommodations for people with disabilities, use the term ‘accessible’ rather than ‘disabled’ or ‘handicapped.’ For example, refer to an ‘accessible’ parking space rather than a ‘disabled’ or ‘handicapped’ parking space or ‘an accessible bathroom stall’ rather than ‘a handicapped bathroom stall.’”

Contractor Terra Engineering & Construction constructed the new path. Earlier this year it also constructed the boat launch and lakefront promenade and reconstructed the parking lot.

Weather permitting, completion was slated for Oct. 27. At press time, the path was still incomplete, likely due to significant rain in the prior two weeks that soaked the exposed soil and surrounding turf.

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