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North Hills Monthly

Leadership Butler County Class Working to Give Freedom To Differently Abled At Lake Arthur

Jul 30, 2020 09:16PM ● By North Hills Monthly magazine

Rendering of dock. Credit Eric Lunn

The Leadership Butler County (LBC) class of 2020 has a goal to raise $50,000 to install an ADA Accessible Kayak Dock at the South Shore of Moraine State Park. The dock, purchased from EZ Dock, provides a stable entry for water enthusiasts making kayaking and canoeing on Lake Arthur more accessible.

Leadership Butler County is a year-long professional development class affiliated with the Butler County Chamber of Commerce. The program focuses on improving the quality of life in Butler County by providing participants with executive skills, offering hands on visitation and touring of the county’s greatest assets. Each year the class selects a community building project. This year’s class consists of 24 men and women from the public and nonprofit sectors of Butler County, including several veterans.

LBC class member Carrie Ferguson brought the dock idea to the class, who quickly voted to take on the project.

“I love kayaking and was so excited to learn about the ADA accessible dock when visiting Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County,” said Ferguson. “I thought ‘Why doesn’t every lake have this?’ The dock made me feel safe and comfortable getting into my kayak and made the water more accessible to friends who are becoming hesitant to step into a kayak as their knees age.” 

Stephen Jensen is a veteran who works at the VA and is a member of the LBC class.

“I have been helping veterans for as long as I can remember. I started at an early age and saw the stressors that come a long with being a veteran,” he said, adding that he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served both in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

“Some of my friends coming home had serious mobility issues that caused them to miss out on normal activities that they used to enjoy. Most of my friends loved being outdoors but were very limited in participating with outdoor recreation,” he continued. “I began telling my fellow veterans about the plan to install an ADA dock at Moraine State Park, and  their eyes just got bigger and bigger. The ability for them to enjoy the small things in life can truly determine their overall mental health.”

The ADA dock will enable veterans and those differently abled to have more independence.  “This is just not a dock for individuals with mobility issues but rather a possible beginning to their health journey,” said Jensen. “It may seem so little, but this concept allows myself and other veterans to stop thinking for one second that we are disabled and enjoy that moment. Sometimes all we need is that one moment to jump start a wonderful future.”

Moraine State Park hosts 1.3 million visitors annually and kayaking is a popular past time on Lake Arthur. “This dock will open up the lake to those who are physically limited, a little nervous, and anyone else—from the very young to the very old,” said class member Janna Unik. “We especially wanted to meet the needs of wounded veterans, who have sacrificed for the rest of us.”

Michele Konyha is the class president for the 2020 class of Leadership Butler County. When asked why she supported this project, she said “Many people with disabilities miss out on everyday activities that most of us take for granted. Nature is a powerful source of healing, in my opinion. Kayaking along with other water activities can be a means of relieving stress while being able to enjoy nature and heal from life’s traumas.

“As a mother to a US. Army veteran, I am proud to be a member of the Leadership Butler County Class of 2021, as we pull together to raise funds and install an ADA accessible kayak launch on the South Shore of Moraine State Park,” she continued. “Although my son is not disabled, he has colleagues who are and who would love this opportunity to be able to embark on this popular activity of kayaking, canoeing, SUP and other water activities throughout the summer.”

The EZ Dock with EZ Launch System costs $34,000. An additional $16,000 is budgeted for community outreach and paving at the site for handicap parking spots and access to the public restrooms.

Fundraisers for this project include a raffle for a $3,000 kayak package to be drawn on August 3, 2020 and a Murder Mystery Dinner event to be held in May of 2021. Additional information is available on the Leadership Butler County Facebook page.

Donations may be made to New Visions For Butler, C/O Leadership Butler County, 120 Hollywood Drive, #101, Butler, PA 16001. For more information visit the Leadership Butler County Facebook page or contact Michele Konyha at 724-712-3280.