Saturday, May 9, 2015

EZ Dock Accessible Kayak and Canoe Station

It was a very cool day on May 1 when three of us from DCR's Universal Access Program investigated an accessible dock in Norwell, Massachusetts. We had to wear coats to test the accessible kayak and canoe station that is part of the EZ Dock system.

A transfer bench allows people to transition while sitting
to a lower bench where access into the boat is easier.
I've been curious about this dock system for over a year and happy to finally get to see one. The Town of Norwell's Conservation Commission gets a lot of kudos for proactively installing a system designed to allow everyone access to paddling on a beautiful pond. Two members of the Commission, Bob and Ron, gave us a tour and reported that all kinds of users appreciate the dock's easier access boating features.

EZ Docks are modular plastic systems that allow for quick installation, little maintenance, and the potential to add or subtract components later. Norwell's design allows for a kayak or canoe to be pulled along the gangway by rope onto the chute to the transfer area of the kayak and canoe station.  The dock's approximately 16 modular sections provide a broad space for multiple or group use. Other aspects include wheel stops at the dock edge (security curbing), tie down cleats and benches.  The whole system floats with spiral anchors that did not require special permitting to put in place. Attached at shore to a wooden wheelchair accessible rampway from two accessible parking spaces, Norwell's EZ Launch dock system is an inspiring example of greater access to the water.

The accessible paddling entry and exit is designed for those who can pull themselves with moderate strength along the rollers and bars of the chute in and out of the water. Depending on the shape of the boat's underside it will be easier or more difficult. We tested two different kayaks and found that the flatter bottom boat required more strength to move up through one spot on the chute. If assistance is needed for a paddler using this system, another person or two can step onto the chute to help, but the far side of the boat is not an optional vantage point for assisting. It may be easier to assist some paddlers who require physical support on all sides from shore or at the top of a floating ramp into the water from off the dock. The EZ Dock website refers to a solar powered hoyer lift that can be installed on the dock.

The EZ Dock accessible kayak and canoe station is still relatively new in our region. Docks with this feature are in the plans to be installed this year at Wompatuck State Park and the Peak Paddlesports boathouse in downtown Orange, Massachusetts. If you want paddle in Norwell, you can find the dock across the street from the South Shore Natural Science Center at 48 Jacobs Lane.

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