Special Needs Beach Park Needs Repairs

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It's one of Florida's greatest attractions.

But not everyone can easily access or enjoy a beach vacation.

Tim Beck's chance to enjoy collecting sea shells and walking on the beach is at a place called Rish Park on Cape San Blas.

"They're some dolphins out there," said Beck looking out at dolphins swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tim is part of a group of special needs residents from Marianna's Sunland Center who periodically visit Rish Park.

The park features a handicapped accessible boardwalk from thoughout the park to the beach.

The cabins are also handicapped accessible.

So is the pool just now opening for the season.

"I love to come out here, I love this place," said Beck.

"They need this," said Sunland Center Staff Member Julie Detloff. "There's nobody else that has taken the initiative to do anything like this for the residents and it's just wonderful," she said.

"I've seen over the years basically, exactly how much it costs to run a facility like this," said Rish Park Manager Billy Quinn Junior.

Quinn has been manager at the park since 1991, more than half its existence.

He says hurricanes, storms and salt air take their toll.

Right now, about half of the roughly 100 acre park is closed.

That half on the bay side of the park includes a nature trail and fishing pond.

Florida's Agency for Persons with Disabilities runs the park.

The agency's budget request includes $1.4 million to fix the boardwalk to re-open the gulf side.

Quinn says because guests are charged only $15 per person per night to keep it affordable, the park's operation is at the mercy of state lawmakers.

"I hear some positive things and I'm hoping that we'll get the funding that we need to make this a really unique and special place throughout the country, not just the state of Florida," said Quinn.

At last check, state lawmakers have agreed to fully fund the repairs to Rish Park as part the state budget.

However, they haven't passed the budget yet.

If they do, it will then require Governor Rick Scott's approval.

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