Tillamook Coast Visitors Association (TCVA) hosted Ashley Schahfer, founder of Empowering Access, for an accessibility tour of three Tillamook County parks June 14-15. Empowering Access is an Oregon based consulting company whose mission is to provide equitable experience and knowledge-based guidance to those looking to engage in disability, equity, and inclusion work. Schahfer’s visit was made possible by a $20,000 grant awarded to TCVA through Travel Oregon’s small project grant program.
The tour was attended by Parks Director JoAnn Woelfle, Parks Office Manager Melissa Rondeau, Parks Maintenance Tech Gene Henderson, TCVA Trails & Outdoor Recreation Manager Dan Haag, Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP) Deputy Director Claudine Rehn, TEP Environmental Education Specialist Rachel Freeman, and TEP Communication & Engagement Manager Diana Dimarco.
The two-day tour took in three of the most-visited parks in the county system – Trask River, Kilchis River and Barview Jetty Campgrounds. Schahfer, an outdoors enthusiast with two degrees in architecture and 21 years of lived experience in disability, offered tips and advice on ways to improve access in the parks for users of all abilities. She pointed out a variety of things that could pose challenges to people dealing with mobility issues, such as concrete lips in front of restrooms, large gravel in handicapped parking areas and public spaces, bark chips on trails and playgrounds, and the height placement of door handles, soap dispensers and hand towels in restrooms. County parks staff also consulted with Schahfer on design ideas for creating dedicated ADA campsites in each park and improving beach and river access points. Schahfer will create a report from all of the data collected during the tour for the parks department and TCVA to use in planning future accessibility projects.
In addition to the parks consultation, Schahfer will be collaborating with TCVA to create an accessibility training and discussion forum for city and county leaders and personnel to be held locally in late fall of 2023.
“Ashley was incredible to work with and we were thrilled to bring her to Tillamook County,” Haag said. “The information she provided will be invaluable as we look ahead to creating recreational opportunities that are welcoming to all abilities.”