Roanoke City's Parks and Rec focusing on ADA compliance in draft plan

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7 )- Roanoke City's Parks and Recreation department is working on developing a master plan that will guide them for the next 20 years.

The department is sharing its recommendations with City Council Monday at a meeting where community members will be able to give input. Much of the community's ideas and suggestions have already been incorporated into the plan.

Roanoke City's parks and greenways have flourished in the last several years. But the city's parks and recreation department knows there's still more to do.

"We have a large park system for a city our size, but we also have a dated park system," said Parks and Recreation Director Michael Clark.

Clark said some parks date back to 1906, well before anyone thought about accessibility for folks with disabilities.

"The newest one was built in 1965 and when you walk into that center you walk into 1965," he said.

By our count, of Roanoke City's 55 total parks only 12 of them are considered ADA compliant. That's why in the Master plan's recommended timeline, it lists "Improving ADA Access within parks" among the top priorities for the next five years. The draft plan recommends making sure those not in compliance are "addressed and corrected on a frequent and documented basis."

In fact, in a survey of residents, poor access because of lack of transportation or ADA compliance was one of the top barriers preventing participation in city parks. Another frequent comment they heard from participants was that park programming also lacked adaptive considerations for populations with disabilities.

"All that stuff is relevant because people with disabilities are leading more active lives than every before, they're driving, they're getting out, they're doing all kinds of good things," said Marc Davis, Community Services Manager, Blue Ridge Independent Living Center. "And we want to make sure they're able to do whatever they wanna do whenever they wanna do it."

Leaders with Blue Ridge Independent Living say differently abled residents are taxpayers, too. He said they deserve the chance to enjoy the amenities and he applauded the city's willingness to make change.

"We like to try and get folks to enjoy life to the fullest as much as they can," he said. "And we're here to raise awareness in the community and across the board to level the playing field for those with disabilities

This draft plan goes before city council Monday. There is a chance for public comment. If approved, the department will work on budgeting an then get to work by spring of next year. If denied, the department will rework the plan and return at a later date.

You can read the full Master Plan final draft attached to this document. Anyone needing disability services can contact the Blue Blue Ridge Independent Living Center at (540) 342-1231.