Are Manistee County trails and parks handicap accessible?


MANISTEE COUNTY – Manistee County is known for having many parks, trails, and outdoor attractions that are popular with tourists and residents alike.

Manistee is also a county with a larger elderly population with 27% of the population over the age of 65, according to census data, and some may have mobility issues or disabilities.

This begs the question: how accessible are Manistee County’s beaches, parks, and trails?

According to Rob Carson, regional director of community development for Networks Northwest, there is a system that rates parks across the state.

This rating system is on a scale of 1 to 5 and was created by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Manistee County’s five-year parks and recreation master plan — which runs from 2022 to 2027 — has an American with Disabilities Act accessibility rating system that is loosely based on the Michigan DNR system.

“In the recreation plan, there are tables for each municipality that list the different parks and the attributes/assets of those parks. There is an Americans with Disabilities Act ranking for each park based on the standardized ranking that was developed by Michigan State Department of Natural Resources for five-year parks and recreation plans. These charts can be referenced to find the most ADA-compliant parks,” Carson wrote via email.

However, Carson noted that it is up to local governments to take steps to implement accessibility-related plans.

The five-year Manistee County Parks and Recreation Master Plan is available online with this story at

“In terms of implementing/improving facilities, it’s entirely up to local municipalities,” Carson said.

“My organization, Networks Northwest, was hired solely to develop and update the existing Manistee County plan, this contract was completed late last year. Local government units and the county are responsible for capacity generation to achieve the goals they set out in their plans,” Carson said.

However, Carson also noted that he is part of another organization that helps address accessibility issues.

“As a member of SMARTrails, outside of and completely separate from my position at Networks Northwest, (we) SMARTrails work to establish trails that are open and accessible to all. Trails (are) location and due to expense are most likely is going to be covered with crushed limestone. This surface is not ideal for wheelchair access but allows its use,” he continued.


The Michigan DNR system is a 1 to 5 ranking, with 1 being the least accessible and 5 being the most accessible.

Manistee County Parks and Recreation Five-Year Plan by Jeffrey Harold Zide on Scribd

The system is classified as follows:

1 — None of the facilities meet accessibility guidelines

2 — Some facilities meet accessibility guidelines

3 — Most facilities meet accessibility guidelines

4 — The entire park meets accessibility guidelines

5 — The entire park was developed according to the principles of universal design

While the Manistee County Parks and Recreation Master Plan is based on the Michigan DNR 1-5 system, it instead opts for a low, moderate, and high rating for ADA accessibility in parks.

The majority of trails, parks, and beaches in Manistee County fall into the low to moderate ADA accessible category, especially the further one travels from the town of Manistee.

For example, Marilla Township – in all of its recreation sites listed in the Manistee County Parks and Recreation Master Plan document, ADA accessibility is low, according to master plan ratings.

Douglas Park, First Street Beach, Fifth Avenue Beach, and Riverwalk in the City of Manistee are listed as having high accessibility.

Magoon Creek Natural Area in Filer Township, Little Manistee River Spillway in Stronach Township, and Bar Lake Outlet in Manistee Township are listed as having high accessibility.

However, the rest of the recreation inventory on the Manistee Township Parks and Recreation Plan is listed as having low accessibility.

Similarly, popular recreation sites in the town of Manistee, such as Sands Park, Duffy Park, and Man-Made Lake, are listed as having low accessibility.

Manistee Director of Public Works Jeff Mikula disagreed with the master plan document’s rating of parks like Duffy Park.

“Duffy Park has a football and baseball field, a small playground, and (a) basketball court. The restroom/concession building is ADA accessible, so I don’t know why it would be unpopular,” Mikula said.

“Sands (Park) has a ball diamond and a skate park and the building is ADA accessible, so I don’t know why that would be low either.

As a general rule, the city routinely includes ADA considerations whenever we perform capital upgrades.

Examples include the Arthur Street Fishing Platform, the new Rocket Playground, Beach Walkways and Restrooms. Memorial Park’s planned renovations also include a barrier-free route through the park to the Bandshell, Mikula told the News Advocate in an email.

The city applied for a grant that would add lighting and create more ADA accessibility to Veterans Memorial Park.

Onekama and Arcadia township officials were also contacted but did not respond Tuesday afternoon.


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