14 Apr

Building an accessible kayak launch with adaptive features provides a wide range of benefits to communities. Why? Because people of all abilities are hooked on paddle sports. When you step into a kayak, push off into a canal or river, and take those first few paddle strokes, nature surrounds you. It’s easy to understand the draw that pulls people to the water.

Paddling and kayak fishing has become everyone’s favorite hobby and a sought-after form of outdoor recreation. It brings families and friends together, connects people to nature, and most importantly, it promotes exercise, good health, and wellness. It’s become an activity that almost everyone can do. When launches are designed and built with inclusive and adaptive features, paddling can be an activity that includes amputees, paddlers with mobility limitations, and even people with lower body paralysis. Kayaking is an inclusive activity that offers adaptive paddlers the opportunity to be out on the water like everyone else.

Until recently, no one really fully understood the economic benefits of investing in an accessible and adaptive kayak launch. However, we are now learning more about the economic, recreational, and environmental impacts.

The 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy Report identified outdoor recreation as one of our nation’s largest economic sectors. Outdoor recreation represents thousands of American communities and provides livelihoods for millions of American workers. The outdoor recreation economy generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually, 7.6 million American jobs, $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue, and $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.


BoardSafe Adaptive Kayak Launch, Fairport Village, Erie Canal, NY

Inclusive Waterways Encourage Economic Renewal

The Economic Benefits of inclusive water trails provide communities with opportunities for economic renewal and growth. Increased property values, tourism, and recreation-related spending on items such as paddling equipment, kayaks, boats, and bicycles are just a few ways that inclusive water trails positively affect communities and the local economy. Paddling encourages good stewardship of parks, natural resources, and riverside land. Enjoyment and protection of the great outdoors are valuable investments in communities and into the future.

Three out of every four Americans participate in active outdoor recreation each year and paddlesports are among the fastest-growing segments of the industry. It’s been reported watersports directly support more than 800,000 jobs annually and statistics show more people go fishing (30 million) each year than go to Disney World (16 million). 

The Erie Canal in upstate New York is just one example of intentional planning for accessible recreation. The benefits of being an inclusive destination are positively impacting tourism along the historic canal. Read the full article here: 

BoardSafe Improves Accessibility for Adaptive Paddling along Erie Canal.

The Story of the Erie Canal

Hospitality and heritage bring hundreds of thousands of tourists to the Erie Canal each summer. People are attracted to the region by different activities: biking, paddling, camping, hiking, sightseeing, and enjoying its history. The tourists who visit are as diverse as the region itself. Tourists with limited mobility who may be hindered by age, arthritis, or more significant disabilities are now able to pedal and paddle along the canal with their families and friends. As a tourist, there is nothing worse than having your group — whether family or friends — fragmented because one member in the group is unable to access a particular location or activity. Everyone in the tourism industry knows the importance of being hospitable, and this includes accommodating those with disabilities. The Department of Environmental Conservation has teamed up with Rochester Accessible Adventures to ensure people with disabilities have access to outdoor recreation. An inclusion team has completed over 25+ site visits through 8 counties along the Erie Canal and evaluated their accessibility thru the lens of inclusion. The team developed operational action items to enhance access and inclusion in the outdoors by removing barriers and enhancing access.

As the Erie Canal Heritage Corridor strives to better accommodate all visitors, many local leaders have recognized the popularity of paddling and the need to provide safe and convenient access in and out of the water. The recent addition of three adaptive kayak launches along the canal has improved accessibility for the adaptive paddling community and all visitors hoping to paddle the historic canal. BoardSafe Docks manufactures a well-known inclusive, adaptive kayak launch that allows people in wheelchairs to safely transition into their kayak and out on the water. It ensures that groups of family and friends may paddle together. The launch system has been engineered with specific adaptive features to improve the paddling experience for a wide range of users. The launch is a versatile, structural, and durable option for towns, communities, and park systems looking for a truly inclusive launch that removes barriers to participation.


BoardSafe Adaptive Kayak Launch, Brockport, Erie Canal, NY

The Erie Canal is one of the greatest civil engineering feats in our nation’s history. Nestled along the Erie Canal are 234 cities, towns, and villages that touch New York’s 524 miles of navigable waterways. The identities of its communities are all tied to their canal heritage. Historically, the Erie Canal created an economic structure by connecting its small canal towns, opening a water route to the midwest, and allowing for cheaper transportation of goods. The canal provided new opportunities for work and life for Americans living along the canal corridor. The waterway created a social connectedness between villages and served as the information highway for that era. The canal also became instrumental in social reform.

Today, the Erie Canal corridor has become a national treasure because of its help in shaping American history. History and tourism are the crown jewels of each canal town. In-water activities offered along the canal corridor — specifically paddlesports like kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding — offer a positive contribution to each town’s economy.

Tourism and Paddling on the Erie Canal

There has been a tremendous increase in kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding over the last several years. COVID has added to paddlesports’ popularity. Visitor research completed for the Erie Canalway National Corridor in 2017 reported that 42% of visitors would like to canoe or kayak on the canal.


In the years since that research study was completed, it’s very likely the percentage of visitors interested in paddling the canal has increased and so has the importance of strategically improving access to the water to include the disabled paddlers. Adaptive paddlers require a launch with specific adaptive features so they may experience the joy of getting into their vessel and out onto the water with their family and friends.


BoardSafe Adaptive Kayak Launch, Lake Minsi, PA

More Features = More Paddlers

In addition to helping Erie Canal communities boost tourism and revenue, adaptive launches serve a wide range of paddling groups, making it safer and easier to enter and exit the vessel and the water. Adaptive launches are all about inclusion and human rights. The Erie Canal has a great history of improving the lives of Americans who lived and worked on the canal and contributed to social reform. Today, the canal and villages have the ability to continue this work and ensure their launches are available to and accessible for everyone.

Water Trails protect and restore America’s rivers, shorelines, and waterways; conserve natural areas along the canal; and increase access to outdoor recreation. Developing accessible trails strengthens the conservation and restoration of the waterways, which are a catalyst for protecting and restoring the health of the waterways and surrounding lands. It pays for communities to develop their landscape, invest in their community, and make sure their community is walkable and connected.

Six Economic Benefits of Building an Accessible Kayak Launch

  1. Promotes Tourism: A kayak launch can attract tourists to the area and increase annual visitors to the trail. Visitor spending will increase revenue to shops, restaurants, gas stations, and hotels and appeal to nature, history, and culture enthusiasts. 
  2. Job Creation: The construction and operation of the kayak launch can contribute to the economic development of the community by creating jobs for local residents, such as construction workers, small business owners, kayak rental operators, and paddling guides. River communities attract and retain skilled workers and businesses. Economic development inspires entrepreneurship and generates tax revenues for municipalities and states.
  3. Increases Property Value: Inclusive access to a kayak launch can increase property values in the area, which can benefit local property owners and help to spur economic development. Homeowners desire close-to-home recreation and are looking to connect with friends, family, and nature through outdoor recreation.
  4. Offers Inclusive Water Access: An accessible kayak launch will encourage more people to participate in outdoor activities on the water. An inclusive launch brings family and friends together and offers a healthy activity for people with mobility limitations and disabilities. As more disabled paddling groups look for recreational opportunities, a fully inclusive launch will draw adaptive paddlers to the water. In turn, this will benefit the local economy by promoting spending on outdoor gear, related activities, and services.
  5. Offers Increased Recreational Opportunities: An accessible kayak launch can provide new recreational opportunities for residents, which can improve the overall quality of life in a community. A gentle paddle down the river and sightseeing through calm waters offers associated health benefits and improves the overall quality of life.

Adding and updating infrastructures to public river access, its pavilions, riverfront parks, and riverside trails will help expand and grow the connecting greenway and blueway trail systems for hikers, bikers, and campers.

  1. Environmental benefits: Accessible kayak launches can benefit the environment by helping to protect local waterways and wildlife by maintaining the health of our most valuable natural and cultural resource.

Overall, an accessible kayak launch with adaptive features can provide a range of economic benefits to a community, including increased tourism, job creation, increased property value, inclusive water access, and improved recreational opportunities. When gaps in diversity, equity, and inclusion are bridged by improving safe and inclusive sustainable recreation, the end result will provide economic growth, sustain business activity, and improve people’s quality of life.


BoardSafe Adaptive Kayak Launch, Medina, Erie Canal, NY

BoardSafe Docks is the industry leader in adaptive kayak launches and fishing piers, gangways and pedestrian bridges, rowing centers, and marinas. They specialize in design consultation, engineering, and manufacturing, and will work with you to ensure your project is accessible to the widest range of users and ensure necessary adaptive features are not overlooked.

You may learn more about BoardSafe Dock’s projects through our website at BoardSafeDocks.com or by calling 610-899-0286.