Forging a new trail at Ludington State Park

Already at the forefront of making recreational assets available to everyone, Ludington State Park is going a step further this summer. In July the park will unveil an accessible water trail. The trail begins at an accessible ramp, making the water pathway another park feature accessible to those with mobility issues.

What’s happening: Ludington State Park, one of Michigan’s most popular state parks, is making the sprawling recreation area even more accessible. This summer the park will launch a universally accessible water trail. The trail, expected to open July 1, will offer paddlers a shorter route and begin at the park’s universally accessible kayak launch.

 “The addition of this new accessible water trail should be a draw to day campers and day visitors alike. While we’ve always encouraged paddle sports on Hamlin Lake. Ludington State Park was the first to put in a canoe trail back in the early 1990s, and this trail will expand the paddling opportunities,” says Jim Gallie, park manager.

The trail: The two-mile trail, which has no name yet, will begin at the park's universally accessible kayak and canoe launch, located between Hamlin Lake Beach and the Hamlin Lake boat ramp. Paddlers will head north from the ramp and make a loop around Lost Lake, islands and under bridges. Signs will guide paddlers along the route.

The new route is easier and more protected than an existing four-mile trail.

“This new two-mile loop is great for beginners because of its shorter length and because it is more protected from strong winds and waves that Hamlin often sees. The intermediate four-mile canoe trail at the south end of the park requires the navigation of some open water on the lake that can make it more challenging,” Gallie says. 

Why it’s important: The new water trail is the latest universally accessible feature at Ludington State Park, a leader among Michigan’s state parks in expanding opportunities for those who have disabilities. Universally accessible means people of all abilities will be able to use the trail and launch ramp safely. In a wheelchair, someone can transfer out of the chair, onto a platform and then into their watercraft by using their hands to slide down into the water. 

Park officials believe the new accessible water trail will be used by locals, campers, and day visitors. The water trail will also be ideal for people who are new to kayaking or canoeing and families teaching young children how to paddle. Lost Lake is more shallow, calmer, and less windy than Hamlin Lake.

The park has been working on a host of universally accessible amenities with the Friends of Ludington State Park. 

Past park improvements: Previous improvements include acquiring the first Action Track Chair. These off-road, electronic track chairs easily handle trails, snow, sand, and even shallow water, allowing users to explore areas that traditional wheelchairs might not reach. A universal kayak launch was installed at Hamlin Lake Beach in September 2021. It’s a 30-foot sloped gangway with a transfer area that enables visitors in wheelchairs to get out of the chair, onto a platform and into watercraft.

In 2018, an accessible playground was installed at Hamlin Lake Beach. In addition, Ludington is the first state park in Michigan to have a SeeCoast Viewer powered
by EnChroma lens technology. The new technology enables viewers with red-green color blindness (affecting 13 million Americans) to experience a broader spectrum of clear, vibrant distinct colors. The viewer has been posted along the park’s popular Skyline Trail.

One of the park’s most popular features – a universally accessible playground – was installed as part of park’s 50th anniversary. The Friends group raised more than $200,000 to build the playground. The playground is built on a poured-in place rubber surface and is accessible by ADA-accessible ramps to the first level. A barrier-free sidewalk connects the playground to the picnic shelter, bathroom building, and concession area.

Michigan state parks: The state also offers a wide variety of accessible recreation opportunities at campgrounds, boating access sites, state game areas, trails, parks and more. Many state parks have been adding track chairs, which are available at no cost to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis. 

What’s Next: Gallie says the park plans to replicate an accessible walkway – built from the beach house to Lake Michigan a few years ago – at Hamlin Lake because of its popularity with families.
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