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Ramp to Replace Elevators at Conn. River Walk Park

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SPRINGFIELD (WGGB) — Two months ago, we told you about ongoing problems with the Conn. River Walk Park sky-bridge in Springfield, and tonight, we have an update.

The woman who’s been spearheading the charge to fix it speaks out, and says the end my be in sight.

Back in May, we heard from Springfield resident Sheila McElwaine and her concerns over the pedestrian bridge linking to Riverfront Park.

Specifically, its poorly designed elevator.

She’s been concerned that people with disabilities haven’t been able to access the park because it rarely works.

“There’s been positive movement from the city but always grudgingly and never with good communications with the public,” said McElwaine.

In 2011, she wrote to the state Architectural Access Board asking them to step in – and they did.

The board told Springfield to figure out a way to make it work while keeping the park accessible to everyone.

So the city presented the state with three solutions.

  1. Continue to fix the persistent problems with the elevator. Last year alone, that cost $50,000.
  2. Put in an all new elevator
  3. Take the elevator out and replace it with a ramp similar to the one across the way.

The board reviewed the issue and decided on the ramp – writing it would “grant until December 1, 2015 for completion of the proposed ramp at the current location of the elevator.”

One of the conditions was that the city first improve alternate access to the park, which has just been finished with new pavement and railroad ties at the main entrance.

It’s welcome news, long in coming for McElwaine. Still, she knows there’s a lot more work to be done.

“I am patient but I really wish the city were being more active, more proactive in terms of maintenance and in terms of communications with the citizens.”

And while the elevator is up and running for now, – it’s days are numbered.

The cost to build the new ramp, estimated to be more than $500,000.


  • bikerunbike

    As a long time user if the bike path, this is certainly a positive development. Unfortunately the person leading this charge, highlighted here, is abrasive and lacks tact. If not for this, I firmly believe this project would have been completed ages ago. Yes, we need advocates, but ones who demonstrate poise and a positive demeanor, which she lacks.

  • Sheila McElwaine

    Bikerunbike, taking part in civic activism is like playing in a symphony orchestra. There are activists who are loud as a trumpet or bass drum and others who are smooth as violins or sweet and seductive as a harp. But it takes all the instruments and players, each one making its own special sound to play Beethoven. The important thing is to keep eyes on the music and not be distracted, to focus on the common goal and to take pleasure when things go well.

    To get somewhere, activists working on related projects need to keep focused on the goal and not on trying to reform one another, a fruitless task in any case. If not they’ll be wasting time and energy that better spent on the cause.

    So if being direct and determined translates for you to abrasive, tactless, and lacking in poise (whatever that means in this context), I plead guilty. A different person, one with a sunnier outlook, given to indirection and tact, may, as you assert, have achieved a more timely result, but we’ll never know, because such a person did not step forward to take action in 2008.

  • bikerunbike

    So now you’re a conductor? Laughable. You give yourself FAR too much credit. You have alleniated many more people than you have engaged. I have it on very good authority that if not for your crass and abrasive attitude, those in a position of power would have rallied around this issue long ago. Simply put, your manner of engagement impeaded this process. No one else stepped up, to your liking, for the reason that you are not a person that can build consensus.

  • Sheila McElwaine

    bikerunbike, in civic participation broadly defined, there is NO conductor, certainly not me. Every citizen, rational or irrational, rude or polite, timid or power-mad gets to have a say. The first amendment of the US constitution guarantees citizens the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It doesn’t say polite citizens or tactful citizens; it just says citizens.

    Of course city bureaucrats don’t like it when citizens point out work that needs to be done. They would rather protect their turf with interminable interdepartmental squabbles and blame lack of progress on the citizens who pay their salaries.

    When it comes to the Riverwalk, over the years the city made and broke one maintenance promise after another, leaving no alternative but to file AAB complaints about the elevator and ramp. Letters, phone calls, presentations to public officials, site visits with couselors and a mayoral aide, media attention: none of it worked.

    And, for the record, the AAB, by the way, does not pursue complaints that are excessive or lacking in merit, so if there were no violations and my personal style were the only problem here, the city would not have been ordered to maintain and replace the elevator.

    But for your informant and for other city officials who don’t like hearing from me, the answer to that is simple: Maintain the Riverwalk and its facilities the way you do Court Square. And when there are problems, notify the general public fully and promptly. Then I’d have nothing to gripe about.