Barrier free recreation on the Gulf of Mexico offered at William J. Rish Recreational Park in Cape San Blas

April 11, 2013

Wheelchair accessible boardwalks to the beach. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Wheelchair accessible boardwalks to the beach. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A vacation to remember awaits near Port St. Joe

Imagine the perfect vacation – a spot with a beautiful view of the Gulf, songbirds singing, your own private beach, swimming pool and easy access to it all just a few steps away. It’s a fairly common occurrence for visitors to the Florida Panhandle. For those with disabilities, however, the dream is often far fetched, as access may not be an easy task. However, the opportunity of a great experience awaits in Cap San Blas at the William J. (Billy Joe) Rish Recreational Park.

Owned and operated by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), the park is 100 acres of beautiful, private sugar white sandy beaches, sea-oat and scrub covered dunes, gentle breezes and overnight accommodations.

Dormitory style cabins spread out along the dunes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Dormitory style cabins spread out along the dunes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The Park has six dormitory cabins accommodating up to 14 people in each. In addition, there are two family cabins with kitchenettes that can accommodate up to seven people in each. Special ramps provide access to the beach and the boardwalks connect all the cabins. The ramps also connect to an Olympic size pool, which is wheelchair accessible. An event hall sports a restaurant size kitchen and dining area.

“We have been open since 1975 and there is no other place like this in the State of Florida,” said park manager Billy Quinn.

Rish Park is open year round for people with disabilities and their family members, guardians, and caregivers.

Recreation hall and large kitchen facility at William Rish Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
Recreation hall and large kitchen facility at William Rish Park. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The cost for overnight stays is $15 per night, per person. For groups of more than 60, it is $12 per night, per person. Large groups can rent the entire park for $650 per night.  Family cottages are available for $15 per night, per person, with a minimum of $30 per night. Advance registration is required for your overnight stay or extended visit. To reserve park facilities, contact APD’s Sunland Center at (850) 482-9386 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday.  If you would like to schedule a tour of Rish Park, please call the park’s manager at (850) 227-1876.

Only people with disabilities may rent cottages and dormitories or use the park facilities. Family members or guardians accompanying people with disabilities are welcome, as are state or private caregivers who transport and assist them. The park is open 12 months a year, and is very popular in the summertime.

To learn more about the park, go to: apdcares.org/rish-park/index.htm

About half of the park, between Cape San Blas Road and the bay, is currently closed to visitors awaiting funding for renovations. When reopened, the bayside park has boardwalks, piers, picnic pavilions, and nature trails overlooking the bay, and a 30-site camping area for recreational vehicles.

Until the economic health of the state improves, allocations from the Legislature will be insufficient to support these goals. If you want to support future improvements to the park, please consider making a financial contribution. Make your check payable to the APD DDC Trust Account and send it to the Sunland Center at the address below. Sunland, APD’s developmental disabilities center in Marianna, operates Rish Park.

Sunland Center
Re: Rish Park Donation
3700 Williams Drive
Marianna, FL 32446