First Lady Casey DeSantis Applauds Opening of William J. ‘Billy Joe’ Rish Recreation Area in Cape San Blas
Repairs for day use completed after Hurricane Michael damaged this uniquely designed park for individuals with disabilities and their families
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis applauds the opening of William J. “Billy Joe” Rish Recreation Area located in Cape San Blas for day use. The opening, following necessary renovations due to Hurricane Michael damage, demonstrates Florida’s commitment to individuals with disabilities. Experiences available upon opening include access to the beach and bay. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will continue its work to make other amenities, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool and overnight accommodations, available later this year.
“William J. Rish Park is a gem, providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity to experience Florida’s sandy beaches in an environment that is exclusively designed for them,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “The community with unique abilities, as well as the entire Panhandle community, have shown incredible resilience as we have worked to rebuild following the devastation Hurricane Michael left in its wake. We are excited about today’s announcement and look forward to DEP’s continued progress toward the full reopening of Rish Park.”
“DEP is proud of this opportunity to provide a barrier-free recreational experience to ensure all visitors are able to experience the Real Florida,” said DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “This park features incredible beachfront and bayside settings ideal for a day trip. In the coming months, DEP looks forward to expanding the amenities at the park for people with disabilities, as well as their families, friends and caregivers.”
The 100-acre park, which features access to the Gulf of Mexico and Saint Joseph Bay, was originally established in the 1970s as an outdoor recreation area for people with disabilities, their families and their caregivers, and it will continue to serve this purpose under DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks.
Stewardship of the park transferred to DEP from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities on December 1, 2021. The park has been closed since Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Florida Panhandle in October 2018. Park admission is $6 per vehicle, to be paid at an honor box.
The only four-time winner of the National Gold Medal for Excellence, Florida State Parks is committed to providing accommodations so all guests may enjoy the Real Florida.
Around the state, beach wheelchairs are available at every coastal park, there are wheelchair-accessible trams at multiple parks and most recently, the first wheelchair-accessible glass-bottom boat debuted at Silver Springs State Park.
Florida State Parks welcome visitors with service animals and strives to design and construct accessible buildings and facilities that provide access for all visitors and comply with applicable Americans with Disabilities Act laws, regulations and standards.