08/12/12 — Cliffs opens first handicapped campsite

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Cliffs opens first handicapped campsite

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 12, 2012 1:50 AM

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The Cliffs of the Neuse State Park recently completed this handicapped campsite with a raised fire pit and a picnic table with improved accessibility.

People who use wheelchairs or motorized chairs will now find it easier to camp at Cliffs of the Neuse State Park with the completion of the facility's first handicapped campsite.

The campsite features a fire pit that is built higher so a person in a wheelchair doesn't have to lean over as far to use it, and a picnic table that has part of the bench cut out so a wheelchair can sit closer to the table.

"If a person in a wheelchair or motorized chair would like to use this site, it would be easier for them to use than the normal campsite," park ranger Candace Rose said.

In addition to making changes at the campsite, rangers also widened the path from the site to the bathhouse to make it more handicapped accessible.

"The bathhouse itself still needs some renovation for it to be completely handicapped accessible," Ms. Rose said. "Right now, a handicapped person can get into the bathhouse, but he or she can't move around too much and would have to have some help, but it's not impossible to use."

Ms. Rose said that when park superintendent Ed Wilkerson arrived at Cliffs several months ago, he realized that there was not a handicapped campsite and got the staff working on creating one.

"Most parks do have a handicapped campsite," she said. "We've had handicapped people call about a special site like this."

The charge for using the handicapped campsite is the same as any other site, but Ms. Rose suggested people call in advance to make reservations.

Another recent improvement at the park has been replacing the wooden steps leading from the lake parking lot to the beach in order to help reduce the ant population in the area.

"The ants have always been an issue out here," Wilkerson said. "That's just an indigenous situation due to the sandy soil in the area."

Replacing the wooden steps got rid of areas where the ants were breeding, and in the near future, the last of the wooden steps will be replaced by concrete ones, he said.

Ms. Rose said there are lots of carpenter ants at the park. They thrive off the forest debris, chewing up the leaves to make their nest.

"On the trails, we put treatments down that get rid of some of the ants," she said. "But people have to remember that this is a state park, so it's a natural area. We could do a controlled burn to get rid of some of the forest debris that the carpenter ants are using to make their homes."

But, she added, even that wouldn't solve the problem entirely.

Ms. Rose said that most of the people who get bitten by ants at the Cliffs have been wearing flip-flops.

"We suggest visitors wear tennis shoes instead," she said. "Ants won't keep anybody from enjoying the park. People should be able to come and do their normal activities. If they see a spot where ants are active, they can just move to another spot.

"It's our hope that people will still come to the park despite the ants being here. We don't think they're a huge enough problem that people would avoid the park."