LAKE LORAMIE – People with mobility issues will find better opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and pontooning with the new adaptive launch ramp at Lake Loramie State Park. At the ribbon-cutting Friday, local and state officials lauded the efforts of Leon Mertz in leading the drive to find funding for the $80,000 installation.
“I wanted to show everyone that Lake Loramie, our shining little gem, was not just for people who got around on two legs, but for everyone,” said Mertz. He said the whole project started when his wife Susan was injured in a fall. Both avid kayakers, they found standards docks were not useful to those who were injured.
“We did not want people to lose their love of kayaking due to age or injury and this is what got us started looking into this project,” he said.
He said the project planning started in March 2018 and they had raised enough funding to order the ramp in August 2018. Local funding paid for $70,000 on the project with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) picking up the balance.
The device allows kayaks and canoes to slide into the lake on a series of rollers, with a slide out bench for easier transfer from the boat to dock. A permanent posting on the dock shows how to use the dock in QR code and text. Also installed was a ramp that allows those in wheelchairs to roll onto a pontoon.
Mary Mertz, who is no relation to Leon Mertz, director of ODNR, awarded Leon Mertz a commendation for his work on this project. She said she had many childhood memories of boating on the water and this installation will allow more people to make new memories.
She also said, keeping this new ramp in mind, that her department was instituting a study of all state parks to measure their accessibility to all populations.
Scott Tihansky, design engineer for Board Safe Docks, said this style ramp was the first of its kind in Ohio.
“We began developing these ramps five years ago when a Pennsylvania Friends group approached us,” he said. He added that the response around the nation has grown almost as fast as the burgeoning interest in paddling canoes or kayaks.
Lake Loramie Park Manager Jason Whitman said Leon Mertz and his family were at the top of his list for the dedication and work.
It was announced at the event that six people, including the park naturalist Stephanie Moorman, had received certified training to show visitors how to use the boat ramp. Also, there will be kayaks for rent. Those interested can call the park office at 937-295-2011.
Leon Mertz also said their efforts are not over.
“We realized we had forgotten the families,” he said.
As a result, fundraising began for a new family area north of the boat ramp with inclusive accommodations such as wheelchair accessible picnic tables and swings. He also said a new glider to hold both a person in a wheelchair and their families would be installed this summer. He said this extra project cost approximately $45,000.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.