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Monday, April 30, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 10



THE WILDS NATURE PRESERVE, IN CUMBERLAND

When visitors board the bus, they soon find themselves wandering the habitat of giraffes, zebra, rhino and a host of other exotic beasts.

This magical, wheelchair-accessible safari takes place not in Kenya, but southeastern Ohio.

At 14000 International Rd. in Cumberland on nearly 10,000 acres once mined for coal, the Wilds educates and captivates. 

The Wilds’ accessibility is well thought out without being obtrusive. 

The barrier-free visitor center has a gift shop and restaurant with enough room to maneuver a chair. 

The center has accessible restrooms. 

Also on the park’s grounds is a wetlands trail with a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk. 

The Wilds has two wheelchair lift equipped vehicles – a bus and a van.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- MAY 1



Sunday, April 29, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 9



CONFEDERATE CEMETERY, JOHNSON’S ISLAND


Close by are historical markers that provide vivid details of daily life at the prison. 

Reading the narrative conjures up images of living, breathing human beings struggling to deal with the ugly realities of survival during wartime while maintaining their dignity. 

After contemplating the site’s history, one can head toward the northern end of the cemetery where a large, bronze statue of a Confederate soldier stands watch. 

To learn more about Johnson’s Island, call the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau at 1-800-441-1271.

http://www.johnsonsisland.org

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 30

Saturday, April 28, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 8



CONFEDERATE CEMETERY, JOHNSON’S ISLAND

Just a stone’s throw from the twinkling lights and boisterous crowds of Cedar Point is a sanctuary for quiet reflection. 

Located in Ottawa County, Johnson’s Island sits in Sandusky Bay and harbors the grounds of a former Civil War military prison and Confederate cemetery. 

History buffs and the merely curious can reach the island located just south of the Marblehead Lighthouse via a causeway that runs off Rt.163.

The buildings where thousands lived, worked and took shelter from the cold Lake Erie winters are gone, but the place where 206 people were laid to rest remains.

Visitors can park nearby and wind their way along the level, well-manicured ground in between the white Georgia marble tombstones.

There’s room to maneuver a wheelchair past the headstones that memorialize names, military ranks and states of origin, haunting reminders of a violent struggle that pitted brother against brother.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 29

Friday, April 27, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 7


CONKLE’S HOLLOW AND ASH CAVE,
IN THE HOCKING HILLS
 
Over the years, tens of thousands had the pleasure of crossing paths with local sage Leland Conner.

The spry retiree was an author and expert on Native American history and folklore.

He brought history alive with his colorful stories of encounters between white settlers and Indians.

But sadly, these kind man who also was astutely aware of access issues, died along with his wife in a crash caused by a teen who stole a vehicle.

When you hike the Hocking Hills, think of Leland's gentle soul.

The Hocking County Tourism Association at the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center, 13178 Rt. 664 S., can arrange a tour guide.

Phone 1-800-HOCKING, or 1-740-385-9706.

www.conkleshollow.com

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 28

Thursday, April 26, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 6


CONKLE’S HOLLOW AND ASH CAVE,
IN THE HOCKING HILLS

Thousands of years ago, mammoth glaciers sculpted the land in the Hocking Hills, creating peaks, basins and caves.

As a result, the area is a beautiful spot for hiking. 

Happily, accessible trails exist for the modestly ambitious to the rough and tumble.

Conkle’s Hollow, on Big Pine Rd., just off Rt. 374, has nearly a mile of trails on wooden walkways suitable for people who use walkers or wheelchair users capable of rolling through a somewhat challenging course.

The trail winds its way along the basin of the deep, rocky gorge.

Here, eye-catching wildflowers lush ferns and spring up at the feet of birch and hemlock trees.

For the more fainthearted, the one quarter mile paved trail to Ash Cave is very wheelchair-friendly.

The brief hike leads to a massive shelter cave and nearby 90-foot waterfall. 

The cave is on Rt. 56, just off Rt. 374.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 27

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 5


THE OHIO STATEHOUSE, IN COLUMBUS

While the tours, given virtually every day but holidays, cover the interior of the statehouse, visitors should figure in time to look at the various statues and monuments scattered around its grounds.\

Paved paths provide access to a number of displays.

The McKinley Monument (located on the west side of the statehouse and honoring former governor and assassinated president William McKinley.)

These Are My Jewels (located on the northwest side of the Capitol Square grounds and honoring several native sons.)

For more information on the Ohio Statehouse or to schedule a tour, call 1-614-728-2695 or 1-888-OHIO-123.

www.ohiostatehouse.org
 
STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 26

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 4



THE OHIO STATEHOUSE, IN COLUMBUS

The statehouse took 22 years to complete.

Long, drawn-out public works projects were a fact of life long before orange barrels wreaked havoc on our highways.

The structure was built between 1839 and 1861, relying largely on prison labor from the Ohio Penitentiary to construct the foundation and ground floors.

The Greek Revival building -- bounded by Broad, 3rd, State and High streets -- emerged triumphant after more than $100 million worth of renovations were completed in 1996.

The statehouse is wheelchair accessible via ramps leading into the building and elevators reach all floors.

Tour guides are aware of the needs of people with a wide range of disabilities and their routes avoid steps when people with mobility impairments are touring.

The free tours roam the halls of the seat of state government, where Abraham Lincoln addressed a joint session of the General Assembly in 1861.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 25


Monday, April 23, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 3


THE CINCINNATI ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDEN

To reach some of the zoo’s other exhibits requires covering hilly terrain. 

But not to worry.

If a guest can’t propel himself in a wheelchair and has no companion to assist, with 24 hours advance notice the zoo will assign a staffer to help.

The zoo also enables the mobility of visitors with a tram and a train, both of which have wheelchair lifts. 

Once a visitor arrives at a display, he’s likely to find a sign indicating the best vantage point for a chair, scooter or stroller user.

The zoo is in the process of posting signs at all the exhibits so those with mobility limitations won’t miss seeing a bear being fed or a baby elephant in a playful mood.

To arrange for a wheelchair-assisting companion and for other information, phone the Cincinnati Zoo at 1-800-94-HIPPO.

http://cincinnatizoo.org/

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 24

Sunday, April 22, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 2



THE CINCINNATI ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDEN


From elephants to apes, every display at the Cincinnati Zoo, located at 3400 Vine St., is barrier-free. 

Of special note is the Jungle Trails rain forest, a popular draw at a zoo already known for its lush botanical gardens, white Bengal tigers and top animal birthrate in the nation, earning the nickname of the “world's sexiest zoo.”

Though the rain forest is built on a slope, its gentle grade is easily negotiable by wheelchair.

Even the trail’s realistic surface, covered in spots with leaves and twigs, is doable.

This extraordinary display is worth lingering over, especially for the playful gibbons, frolicking orangutans and odd-looking lemurs.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 23

Saturday, April 21, 2012

ACCESSIBLE OHIO -- PART 1

FIVE WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE HAUNTS
IN THE STATE WE WERE RAISED IN

Indoors or outdoors, from a first rate zoo to a restored Greek Revival building to a paved trail leading to an awe-inspiring cave, there are wheelchair-accessible destinations all over the Buckeye State.

People looking for a good time -- but who may need the assistance of crutches, a walker, scooter or wheelchair – can find barrier-free fun in many shapes and sizes.

Some destinations have been well-planned.

Others just happen to be on level ground, or have other features that aid maneuverability for people with disabilities.

The next 10 days, we will list “wheelchair accessible wanders” scattered around the state we lived in for 35 years.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 22

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 11


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


IF YOU GO:

Cedar Key Chamber of Commerce: www.cedarkey.org            (352) 543.5600

Cedar Key Bed and Breakfast www.cedarkeybandb.com         (352) 543-9000

Tony’s Seafood Restaurant: www.tonyschowder.com                  (352) 543-0022

Dilly Dally Gally: www.dillydallygally.com                                        (352) 543-9146

Curmudgeonalia: www.curmudgeonalia.com                                (352) 543-6789

Cedar Key Hole: www.cedarkeyhole.com                                    (352) 543-5801

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 10


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


According to local historians, the weathered, collapsing structure was built in 1959 by local craftsman for the family that owned the Thomas Hotel -- a short day trip away in Gainesville.

The boardwalk and some of the cottage itself were destroyed by Hurricane Elena on Labor Day, 1985.

Subsequent storms created the further battered condition that makes the isolated Honeymoon Cottage a rustic, faded charmer.

Taking meandering walks and rolls in the slow lane, fueled by plenty of fresh seafood, is what Cedar Key is all about.

Check out the Honeymoon Cottage. 

Bring a book.

Pack a snack. 

Take a nap. 

Old Florida still exists and it is wheelchair-accessible.

Wright is an award-winning journalist and photographer who has published thousands of travel stories and contributed to New Mobility for nearly two decades. He lives with his ADA-expert wife in the heart of bustling Miami, but appreciates a good Old Florida respite.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 11

Monday, April 9, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 9


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


Better news is that several of the bridges also feature turn off points for public parks along the watery bayous, inlets and other bodies of water that support commercial clam farms and other seafood harvesting. 

The park at No. 4 Bridge features an accessible fishing pier, van-width parking and clean, barrier-free restroom.

Right in town, the Cemetery Point Park features a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk that weaves over wetlands and returns to the accessible parking spaces. 

It indeed is next to the historic town Cemetery, which is a bit too hilly to wheel through, but can be enjoyed by a slow car ride past its aged headstones and mature trees.

Back in town, one of the best waterfront sites is a pile of rotting wood ruins. 

The Honeymoon Cottage is the nickname for a house on stilts out in the Gulf, but close to the shore.

Perhaps the most photographed image in all of Cedar Key, the cottage used to be connected to the mainland by a 300-foot boardwalk.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 10

Sunday, April 8, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 8


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


Cedar Keyhole Artist Co-Op and Gallery, located in the 2nd Street Historic District in a lovingly restored 19th century building, boasts of its accessibility on-line. 

Dozens of artists have their wares on display in the barrier-free first floor gallery beneath the big open porch above.

My wife, Heidi, found a beautiful Old Florida-style sea glass necklace at a very reasonable price.

In a city filled with quaint wooden docks, piers and buildings, Cedar Key's fishing pier is not pretty.

But the massive concrete structure is 100 percent accessible with a large, wide turn ramp leading up to several sections of pier that jut out into the blue, seafood-filled waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The pier is free of charge and has barrier-free restroom facilities. 

Even if you're not an angler, the pier provides magnificent views of the Dock Street restaurants, pubs, shops and barrier islands in the Gulf.

Travelers cross several bodies of water and bridges on the way to Cedar Key's isolated spit of seaside land. 

A word of caution: visitors tend to soar over these bridges on their way into town and the slow-land locals don't appreciate big city speeders.

Maintain the limit or risk paying a hefty speeding fine.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 9

Saturday, April 7, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 7


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


We found good ramped access to Dilly Dally Gally, a typical seaside tourist gift shop with a corny name that makes us grimace when we repeat it. 

But the tidy shop offers everything from cheesy souvenirs to some top quality items worthy of impressing picky friends and relatives.

Our favorite place to shop is inland, at the corner of Second and D streets on a corridor that features artists and local shops in a series of historic buildings.

Curmudgeonalia is the last of the great, little independent book stores.

They also sell a few sundries for the locals and souvenirs for the vacationers.

But the emphasis is on literature.

There may be a few beach reads, but this little shop packs an impressive inventory of first-rate fiction and non-fiction from current to classics.

The owner, a retired physician from up north, is indeed a Curmudgeon who is all too happy to share his pointed political views directing you to the shelf with local books – such as (put in the name of the Cedar Key historical book that I bought).

What the proprietor lacks in appreciating opposite political views, he gains in helping wheelers to bump over the single step into his book store and by having wide, maneuverable aisles.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 8

Friday, April 6, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 6



FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


You truly can take a long peaceful nap, enjoying your privacy. 

The area is so safe and tranquil that we basically checked ourselves in.

We knew the name of our room, opened the door, found the key on the night stand, dragged the luggage inside and took up residence for three days.

The only drawback when we stayed is that the place was a little too tranquil.

At least one made from scratch breakfast was replaced with microwave fare and we never got to chit chat with the innkeepers to get their suggestions on local legends, dining and more. 

In all fairness, one of the owners was gravely ill and a friend of theirs was called in to pinch hit. 

Though her breakfasts were less than memorable, she did go on a pizza run for us when the local delivery joint’s driver never showed.

Dock Street is the big waterside attraction in Cedar Key. Roughly a dozen bars, restaurants, and shops rest on stilts out over the warm waters of the Gulf. 

The good news is that the sidewalks are plenty wide for wheelers and there are lots of curbcuts. 

The bad news is that a few of the places can be reached only by steps, so Dock Street is not 100 percent accessible to wheelchair-using visitors.

ORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 7

Thursday, April 5, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 5


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


Stuffed with seafood, we made our way to the Cedar Key Bed and Breakfast. 

Cedar Key has lots of small lodgings, but no chain hotels. 

Several promise some degree of wheelchair access, but after much research via email and phone calls, we selected the Cedar Key B&B.

Miss Verona’s room has a roll-in shower and easy ramped access from a parking space right in front of the inn. 

The room comes standard with one king bed, but can be converted to two twin beds to accommodate a disabled guest plus attendant. 

For about $130 per night, a room comes with a cooked to order breakfast, free parking and an endless, free supply of the inn’s famous chocolate chip cookies.

The inn is a combination of big, historic house and additions. 

The common areas, including the kitchen and area where breakfast is served, feature barrier-free access. 

The huge porch, also accessible, is the perfect place to crack open a book and gaze at the 400-year-old Live Oak in the spacious back yard.

If you crane your neck a bit, you can see the waterfront just down the street.

The B&B is located in a very quiet part of town with no commercial business for several blocks.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 6

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 4


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


The long drive, fresh air and rustic setting lends itself to a powerful hunger.

Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, in a restored brick building at the entrance to town in the Second Street Historic District, sates all appetites with lunch specials.

The grouper sandwich is huge, fresh and nicely blackened and on the dinner menu, a low country boil of shellfish, finfish, potatoes and corn on the cob make for an impressive Gulfside version of a classic New England lobster boil.

Speaking of New England, neither of us care for creamy, colorless New England Style clam chowder. Tony’s is famous for New England chowder, and we were skeptical.

Thankfully, Tony’s award-winning version is a symphony of flavor.

They won’t reveal the secret recipe, but there’s something in it that gives the bowl a pinkish hue and can convert an anti-chowder person into a fan in about three spoonfuls.

Tony's is in an old, historic building. But it has two accessible entrances and the wait staff is outstanding about subtly clearing a path of maneuverability to a prime table.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 5

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 3


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


Cedar Key’s population is just under 1,000. Its boom period was in the 1800s, when the town’s activity was out on what now is an unpopulated barrier island in deep water just off the mainland. Steamships plied the waters between New Orleans, Havana, and Cedar Key. 

The Suwannee, the famed wild blackwater river that begins in southern Georgia and rambles through the Okefenokee Swamp and hundreds of miles of Florida, empties into the Gulf just to the north of Cedar Key.

The town, based in the mainland for more than a century, gets its name from the cedar trees that used to cover it.

Starting in the 1860s, the trees were harvested and processed into cedar slats for shipment to pencil factories in the north.

A railroad line was built out to the tiny key to accommodate such commerce.
Even in the modern 21st century, there is only one way into Cedar Key: across narrow bridges that glide on top of bayous and backwaters where farm-raised clams are grown.

The long drive ends and the little town presents itself with an inland row of stagecoach stop-looking wood buildings – some vacant, others with artists’ shops on the ground floor – and a cropping of taverns, restaurants and shops built on docks over top of the warm Gulf of Mexico waters.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL4

Monday, April 2, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 2


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


Old Florida is where you can settle down long enough to sit on a porch swing, gaze out at large trees swathed in Spanish moss, and read a book cover to cover.

Old Florida is devoid of chain hotels, where visitors can choose from quirky cottages and small inns that don’t charge an arm and a leg for a night’s lodging.

Cedar Key is 100% Old Florida, quietly plotted a good two hours north of Tampa and an hour-plus southwest of Gainesville.

Though it is one of the oldest unspoiled towns in Florida, a high percentage of its best attractions are wheelchair-accessible.

And a wheelchair user can safely cross its narrow streets populated by light traffic.

Safe streets, shady sidewalks, portable ramps to traverse thresholds into shops and a super ADA-compliant turn ramp leading up to the free public fishing pier make Cedar Key the perfect calm, accessible oasis for my wife, a wheelchair user of three-plus decades.

If you don’t like seafood, Cedar Key may not be for you. The town’s best and most famous restaurant revolves around the bounty of the sea – including the locally-harvested clams.

You can order pizza or chicken wings at a dockside bar, but grouper, chowders, seafood boils and the like are the dishes that soothe the soul in Cedar Key.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 3

Sunday, April 1, 2012

CEDAR KEY TRANQUILITY -- PART 1


FIND OLD FLORIDA IN CEDAR KEY


They don’t make places like Cedar Key anymore.

Especially in Florida, where suburban sprawl and overdevelopment have sucked the life out of more coastlines, fish shacks, seaside bungalows and starry nights that anyone can count.

We live in cosmopolitan Miami and love its dizzying architecture, diversity, cuisine and spirit. 

But to get away from it all, we have to drive hundreds of miles.

The southern Gulf Coast has built itself into oblivion and the Keys, though still magical, usher in a bigger slice of corporate America (while snuffing out bits of Old Florida) every day.

Old Florida is a place where the kitchen closes down at 10 p.m. – maybe even as early as 9 on a weeknight.

You don’t have to ask where the locals eat, because the handful of restaurants are dependent on locals – not jet setters from Manhattan to Madrid (bless their South Beach-loving hearts.)

Old Florida is where the seafood you eat was actually caught nearby in the Gulf of Mexico, where the town shuts down before midnight and you can truly see the stars at night. 

We're not talking about the kind in the nightclubs, but those in the sky, and they're not drowned out by sky glow from big city billboards.

STORY CONTINUES TOMORROW -- APRIL 2