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Canton rec department wants to install accessible kayak, canoe launch

Sep. 14—Alan Fifield and Tom Lazore were tentatively paddling their kayaks around the swimming area at Canton's Taylor Park on Saturday.

Most people are a little anxious when they first get in the notoriously tippy boats, but as men who are used to traversing the world in wheelchairs, the situation was more precarious.

It wasn't long before the two men were comfortable and it wasn't too much longer before they were specks down river, paddling like it was something they did every day.

Mr. Lazore and Mr. Fifield were aided by using kayaks that had been adapted to be more stable with outriggers stretching from each side of the stern of the crafts.

The person behind the adaptive kayaks is Mark J. McKenna, founder of the Wounded Warriors Sled Hockey team.

Two of the boats Mr. McKenna brought to the Canton beach on Saturday were fitted with commercially made outriggers and one with a design of his own, crafted with PVC pipes.

Mr. McKenna arranged the demonstration Saturday to draw attention to a fundraising effort he is behind to construct an accessible kayak and canoe launch that could be ready by next year's Remington Canoe Races in the spring.

"We've raised about half the money so far," Mr. McKenna said of the $34,000 goal.

Canton's newly installed Recreation Director Meghan E. Richardson said she hopes to be doing some concrete work on shore, on the down river side of the beach, in the coming weeks to be ready for the arrival of the launch in the spring.

The launch includes a dock with a set of rollers alongside to ease kayaks and canoes into and out of the river. Just before the end of the dock there will be a wheelchair transfer device. Someone in a wheelchair can get into and out of the water and into and out of their boats with little or no assistance.

The launch can be used by everybody and will be especially helpful for children, elderly people and those with limited flexibility.

"Everybody has trouble getting into and out of a kayak," Ms. Richardson said.

Canton Village Mayor Michael E. Dalton, an occasional kayaker himself, said the Village Board of Trustees is behind the efforts to make kayaking accessible for all at Taylor Park.

"I think we are becoming more and more in tune with people with access issues," he said.

Donations for the kayak launch can be sent to the village office at 60 Main St., Canton, NY 13617. Call the Recreation Department for more information at 315-386-3992.