Vt. working to increase ADA-compliant fishing facilities

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 5:02 PM EDT
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SHELBURNE, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont has over 200 fishing access areas but less than a quarter of them are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Vermont wildlife officials have set a goal of increasing that number so more people can enjoy the classic summer pastime.

“Fishing up here is great, better than New Hampshire,” said Donald Wilson with a laugh. The New Hampshire man and his brother-in-law, Pierre Tremblay, were returning to Shelburne Bay after a successful morning fishing trout on Lake Champlain. “I have Parkinson’s disease so I am pretty immobile.”

The access for folks with disabilities is better at Shelburne Bay than what they say they have back at home. “This is perfect. I can wheel him on and off pretty easy,” Tremblay said.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife in 2010 started upgrading access areas to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Today, only about 23% of the 200 fishing access areas are ADA-compliant.

Over in Milton, the department’s Mike Wichrowski shows the access area on the Lamoille River. He says the site was considered fully compliant but on Wednesday he spots a few areas that need tweaking following winter wear and tear. That includes fixing the dock access and a paved path access to a shoreline fishing spot “This whole thing is great, but technically it’s not compliant because of this one little piece here,” he said.

The department has embarked on a plan to bring 50% of facilities into compliance by 2027. Some only need designated signage to be fully compliant while others need infrastructure upgrades. Wichrowski says they want to ensure compliance is spread out. “Our goal is to have equitable access across the state,” he said.

The plan outlines a goal of bringing areas up to standard across Vermont so that no person has to travel more than 25 miles for appropriate access. And the department will offer what accessible features certain access areas have, even if they are not fully compliant so that users can make their own judgment about whether to use them. The department has opened public comments through the end of June to hear from Vermonters about access.

Back in Shelburne, Wilson and Tremblay are pleased with what they see and also eager to see improvements coming closer to home. “I don’t see anything wrong with this launch -- it’s a really good launch,” Wilson said. “Keep up the good work Vermont.”

Public comments can be emailed to ANR.FWADAPlan@vermont.gov with the subject line “fishing access area plan.” The comment period is May 15 to June 30.