For fans of Cherry Creek State Park who use wheelchairs and are accompanied by dogs, the pleasures of rolling along the path in the off-leash dog area were offset by the treacherous fields of rocks they were forced to navigate, both when approaching the wheelchair-accessible entrance and then again to reach the path.
FSD Client Services Director and client Amanda Vallo, who uses a wheelchair as a result of being partially paralyzed in a car accident 30 years ago, finds beauty and solace in the park with her FSD service dog, Ava. During each visit, however, they experienced the difficulty and danger of the stone-strewn entrance, as Amanda was badly jolted in her chair and sometimes thrown forward in her seat after a rock suddenly stopped her forward motion.
But because Amanda is not the “sit back and suffer” type, in September 2019 she decided, in her words, “to take action and not remain silent when there’s injustice happening in plain sight.” She contacted Cherry Creek State Park operations and maintenance staff on numerous occasions, explaining the unsuitable (and unlawful) situation and offering suggestions to make the dog-area entrance more easily and safely accessible for people with disabilities and others.
In October, Amanda was notified that the dog park had been closed for two weeks for maintenance and repairs, during which time they made a number of the accommodations she had requested, including removing the rocks and paving the entrance areas with concrete to smooth the way for those with wheels.
As Amanda wrote in one of her emails to the park operations staff, “Ava and I, others with mobility challenges, moms with strollers, dads pulling wagons, and senior dogs in little buggies ALL deserve a clear shot at having a great day at the dog park.” Thanks to our very own Amanda Vallo, all of them will finally get that chance. Way to go, A-Team!