McHenry County’s first ADA-accessible boat launch to be installed in Cary

McHenry County Conservation Foundation is matching up to $10,000 in donations

The McHenry County Conservation Foundation is raising funds to install McHenry County’s first Americans With Disabilities Act-accessible boat launch at the Hollows Conservation Area in Cary.

The nonprofit organization that supports the McHenry County Conservation District is matching up to $10,000 in donations to fund the boat launch. The foundation aims to raise funds by the end of this summer and have the boat launch installed and ready to use by summer 2025, foundation Executive Director Shawna Flavell said.

The boat launch will be installed at Lake Atwood in the Hollows. The 22-acre lake is popular for fishing, paddling and kayaking, Flavell said. The ADA-accessible boat launch works by providing a slope, handrails and overhead straps so people can use their upper body to steadily get themselves in and out of boats.

“If somebody is wheelchair-bound, they can roll up onto the launch in their wheelchair while also pulling the boat on these rollers so it smoothly glides down to an area where the boat can be confined,” Flavell said. “So the boat rests in the water but is stable in that position.”

The McHenry County Conservation District first identified the need for an accessible boat launch in 2008 but held off on buying one because the district did not believe any of the models were up to the standards they envisioned, Flavell said. In 2021, the need was revisited as part of the district’s updated strategic plan.

“They started re-researching those boat launches and found ones that they felt the system would give everybody who would utilize them, regardless of ability, a positive experience,” she said.

The Hollows was chosen as the location of the boat launch because of the stable water levels and it’s “relatively centrally located in McHenry County,” Flavell said.

More changes will come to the Hollows Conservation Area, including an updated hiking trail around the lake, a fishing pier, new wayfinding and interpretive signage, solar lights for evening cross-country skiing and improved shoreline access.

Most of the renovations will be paid for through grants from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. MCCD received an $80,000 Boat Access Area Development grant and an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant for $200,000. With the grants combined, MCCD aims to make the renovations to the Hollows by summer 2025, Flavell said.

Donations for the ADA-accessible boat launch can be made at

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