By Jerri Brooker, a freelance writer in Washington State. For more try here.

When David Hamilton, a Trout Unlimited board member, wanted to help a close friend who was having a time accepting life in a wheelchair, he thought about what he could do to help. He began making plans for a recreational facility that people with disabilities could enjoy; where they could access aqua-culture and fish enhancement projects in the beauty of the Northwest outdoors of Washington State. He set about to make his dream happen.

The Friend family donated 152 acres, previously an old gravel pit, with one-mile of Chehalis River frontage, to Trout Unlimited in 1988. Dredging for gravel had already produced a 32-acre, man made lake with a variety of fish. Mother Nature did great work on this ideal location for Hamilton’s dream.

After Hamilton presented the plan to use this property to build a park for the disabled community, Trout Unlimited agreed to support the project. Hamilton planted the seed and got the wheels turning; Trout Unlimited along with Columbia Pacific RC&D and Grays Harbor County funded the project and provided volunteers.

The community came together in three phases. First the volunteers built a fishing pier on the Chehalis River with a boat launch, two fishing shelters, a picnic shelter, a parking lot and quarters for a caretaker. They then built a paved path south of the lake in the second phase along with viewing docks and piers. They erected a handicap accessible ramp and float on the river, along with a boat launch, an extended parking lot and landscaping.

In 1999 the final phase was completed with a paved pathway circling the lake, restrooms with showers, recreational vehicle (RV) and tent-camping facilities, paving and accessible playground equipment.

Friends Landing, once a dream, now is reality.

Located at 300 Katon Road in Montesano, Washington, the former gravel mining operation is now an outdoor haven for nature lovers with disabilities. There’s a bunch of good fishing and two fishing shacks along with piers and other access. Salmon and sturgeon are the major catches. There are 1.7 miles of level trail. However, the owners say beware of black bear, they do reside in the neighborhood.

Eighteen RV sites with electrical and water plus eleven tent sites define the campground. There’s also a dump station. Folks may camp from March to November by making reservations at (360) 249-5117. Reservations are for folks with disabilities only. When making reservations, please provide your Disabled Sticker ID.

Friends Landing is a volunteer project, and does not receive funding for operation and maintenance. Currently under funded, the park does welcome donations. If they get enough donations to make it self-operating, they hope to give senior and disabled rates at some point.

Hamilton has researched but has not been able to find another similar place built entirely from scratch to serve the disabled in the United States, according to Carol Smith, Director of the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in Montesano, Washington. If anyone knows of another place, I’m sure Hamilton would be delighted to know about it.

One man’s dream to help his friend became a haven for the disabled community. Let’s hope this planted seed which became reality will spur others in the nation to do the same.