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Park Changes Possible After Wheelchair Sticks In Gravel

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A boardwalk at Alachua County’s Sweetwater Wetlands Park turns into gravel. Visitor Phyllis Saarinen said her husband's wheelchair got stuck in the gravel on Feb. 14. (Olivia Courtney/WUFT News)
A boardwalk at Sweetwater Wetlands Park turns into gravel. Visitor Phyllis Saarinen said her husband’s wheelchair got stuck in the gravel on Feb. 14. (Olivia Courtney/WUFT News)

Sweetwater Wetlands Park could undergo renovations to the park’s crushed gravel trails after a person with a disability became stuck on the path.

Phyllis Saarinen said she and her husband, Arthur, who uses a wheelchair, were at the park at 325 SW Williston Road on Feb. 14.

“He was very interested to see [the park],” Saarinen said, “so I thought it would make a good outing for Valentine’s Day.”

Saarinen said she had researched the park and had scouted it out for her husband. After seeing handicapped signs and a wooden walkway, it appeared to be wheelchair-accessible.

But the wooden path soon turned into gravel, according to Saarinen, causing her husband’s wheelchair to become stuck.

“We got about this far and then had to go back,” Saarinen said, “because the wheelchair just doesn’t work on gravel. It has relatively narrow wheels.”

After turning back, the couple experienced more trouble getting the wheelchair back onto the wooden path, she said.

“I was trying to lift [the wheelchair] up and get the wheels up over that lip and couldn’t do it,” Saarinen said. “Then, another couple came along and said, ‘Here, let us help you.’ And together, we lifted the chair.”

The park is maintained by the city of Gainesville. Public works spokesman Chip Skinner said the city is aware of the issue and is discussing possible solutions.

“One of them is adding some additives to the existing material that we have there, which will help solidify it or possibly even paving it,” Skinner said.

Sweetwater is made up of more than 125 acres of wetlands and ponds.

About Graham Hall

Graham is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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