Author Q&A

How did you pick out the parks that you covered in the book?
First and foremost, the parks had to have a reasonable number of accessible activities or attractions to be included; and if the park also had an accessible cabin that usually pushed it over the top. But there is a specific reason that I included each park in the book. For example, I included John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park because of the accessible glass bottom boat and snorkeling excursions; while Suwannee River State Park made the cut because of the nice accessible cabin with the Old Folks at Home feel. I pointed out the reason for choosing each park at the beginning of every chapter.
How did you research the book, and how long did it take?
Basically we packed up the car and hit the road for Florida. We circled the state and checked out the included parks, as well as some that didn’t really make the cut. We put a lot of miles on the car, and the Florida road trip took about two months. My bed felt really good when we got home!
Did you run into any problems or encounter any obstacles on your research trip?
Outside of a particularly aggressive woodpecker and some overly inquisitive wild pigs, we really didn’t run into any major roadblocks along the way. That said, we did hit a large rain storm in Jonathan Dickinson State Park. When it rains in Florida it comes down in buckets, and we barely made it to our cabin before the heavens unleashed a gully washer. And then an hour later it was over and the sun was out. That’s Florida weather.
Did you visit all of the cabins that you included in the book?
Absolutely. I feel it’s important to personally inspect everything I cover, so I can accurately describe the access to my readers.
What is your favorite park?
Gosh, that’s a difficult one — it’s almost like asking someone to pick their favorite child. I really enjoyed all the parks that I included — that’s why they’re in the book — but if I had to pick one I would say Myakka River State Park. It boasts several nature trails, a pontoon boat and a tram tour, all of which are wheelchair-accessible. We had some great wildlife sightings there, including alligators, osprey and even bald eagles. And I absolutely love their recently renovated accessible cabin.
What was the most surprising thing — access-wise — that you discovered in the Florida State Parks you visited?
I was pretty wowed by a wheelchair lift into a natural spring at Wekiwa Springs State Park. That’s something that you don’t exactly see every day.
What’s the best time of the year to visit the parks?
Peak season in the southern part of the state is from November to March, while the north sees more visitors from June to August. I prefer to go in the shoulder seasons, to dodge the crowds. We visited in April, and although a few of the minor park concessions were shut down, we had good weather and the prices were lower than they were during prime time.
Where is the best place to see alligators?
Boy, we saw them just about everywhere, and on one hike at Myakka River State Park we got a little too close to one guy for my comfort. We also saw a fair amount of alligators on the pontoon boat tour at Blue Spring State Park, and from the boardwalk at Manatee Springs State Park. We had out best alligator sightings in the mornings — they seemed to be more active then.
What was the most memorable animal sighting that you had in the Florida State Parks that you visited?
We had a lot of animal sighting on the trip, but I think my most memorable one was of a mom and baby manatee at Blue Spring State Park. It was just a special moment.
Do the Florida state parks offer a discount on entrance fees for disabled people?
Not across the board, but disabled veterans can get a free military pass, and Florida residents who are 100% disabled get 50% off campsites in the parks.
So, what’s next for you? Are you planning another Barrier-Free Travel book?
I will continue travel and write about my accessible finds on www.EmergingHorizons.com. And yes, I’m already working on my next book, Barrier-Free Travel; Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. It’s a huge project and it will be released in July 2017. You can find out more about it at www.BarrierFreeYosemite.com.