News & Information > News Releases

February 18, 2010
Melanie Mowry Etters
Communications Director
(850) 488-4257

Park is Reopened

CAPE SAN BLAS, FL - The William J. (Billy Joe) Rish Recreational Park on Cape San Blas reopened today after two years of renovations. Rish Park, which originally opened in 1973, is the state's only park specifically for people with disabilities and is operated by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). The park is located at 6773 Cape San Blas Road in Gulf County.

The park is named after former State Representative Billy Joe Rish who was instrumental in securing the land from the federal government in 1968 and designating it for use by people with disabilities. Members of the Rish family attended today's Grand Reopening ceremony, as well as former House Speaker Allan Bense who helped secure the state money for the park's renovations.

Several disability organizations sponsored the event in addition to APD, including the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association and the Family Network on Disabilities.

More than $3 million worth of renovations have been completed at Rish Park. A handicapped accessible boardwalk to the beach is now finished. Two group cabins and two family cabins were modernized. The swimming pool was also repaired and improved. All of the updated facilities are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

APD Director Jim DeBeaugrine said, "We are excited to have Rish Park opened again. With all the renovations, it is truly a barrier-free recreational area for people with disabilities as designed. We want Floridians with disabilities to come and stay at the park and enjoy the pristine beaches and beautiful outdoor environment the park provides."

The park is now open to visitors who are Florida residents with disabilities and their families. If you would like to make a reservation, contact Sunland in Marianna at (850) 482-9386.

The agency annually serves about 35,000 Floridians with developmental disabilities of mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information on the agency, call 1-866-APD-CAREs or visit