SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Columbia Park, in the historic Highland neighborhood, received a makeover, making it accessible to all who wish to enjoy the shady outdoors. The person responsible was the Independent Living Program Director for New Horizons, who wanted to have fun just like everyone else.

“Somebody like me in a wheelchair comes here, and there’s no place for me to park. And if I’m able to get out of my vehicle and get into the park, and there’s no accessible restrooms, what it says to me is, we don’t want you here,” said Director Mitchell Iddins.

New Horizons is a non-profit organization, with resources to help those with disabilities live an independent fulfilling life.

Earlier this year, in May, an employee from New Horizons went to Columbia Park for an outreach event. She did not stay long because the park was not accessible to her.

“She said it wasn’t accommodating. There weren’t even any reasonable accommodations. I couldn’t get into the bathroom. I couldn’t find a place to park, and I said, well you know what? We’re going to have to do something about that,” said Iddins.

Iddins has had his own issues with the park, specifically when he has come to the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival in the past.

“I’ve been to this festival many times and I’ve always had to park two or three blocks away before I could make my way up to the park. Sometimes you have to get in the road and that creates a hazard or come across broken sidewalks where there are no curb cuts and that creates a hazard for me.”

In May, Iddins performed an ADA survey of the park, looking at the pathways, parking lots, and bathrooms. He then spoke with the ADA coordinator for The City of Shreveport and Spar.

Alonzo Smith, ADA Coordinator for the city sent him a letter back saying, “The issues that could be resolved immediately have been corrected.”

It continued, “These include installation of signage for handicap parking and handicap accessible areas, correction of walkway elevation, and repair of trip hazards.”

Iddins said that it means a lot to him and members of the community with disabilities to be able to relax and socialize with a little more ease.

“That says to me that you are welcome. That says to me, that we do want you here. You’re part of our community and we welcome you and we want you to be able to come out and have a good time just like everybody else,” said Iddins.

There are still issues to be addressed such as making the bathrooms accessible and having access to the gazebo in the park. In the letter, Smith said that they intend to address these needs in future bond proposals.

There are many parks in Shreveport so for Iddins, he says this is only the beginning.