Senior ROTC Platoon Sergeant Bror Thirion brought forward the idea to add wheelchair ramps onto the southern bridge placed midway through the Jewel Moore Nature Reserve.
Thirion said he wanted the wheelchair ramps to honor and accommodate disabled veterans that come visit the ROTC building and the disabled veterans that are trying to get a UCA degree.
The ramp will allow disabled veterans not only to traverse campus, but enjoy the natural beauty of the state.
He said one of the big problems he has seen in the past when utilizing the nature reserve trails for the cross country and track team and ROTC is that people would have to turn around halfway through the trail because either they were veterans with too much wear and tear on their bodies, families with strollers or just disabled people who wanted to see the entire extent of the nature trail.
“At that bridge there were a couple of steps they had to go up, and they didn’t want to bother with it,” Thirion said.
“They didn’t want to have to rock up their children, or they just couldn’t because they were in a wheelchair.”
Thirion said there were no wheelchair ramps added to the east entrance bridge because the ground leading up
to that bridge isn’t wheelchair accessible, and they wanted to have a minimal impact on the environment.
With the ramps being built at the bridge midway through the nature reserve, it allows people to come in from the south entrance of the reserve, which has convenient parking, and go through the complete trail that ends at the
sand volleyball courts.
“Before, people could only enjoy half of the reserve, but now they can enjoy the entire thing,” Thirion said.
He also said he thought of the idea back in August.
“I’ve had a lot of time to prepare, gather my thoughts, and realize that if everything were to possibly go wrong I could just build it myself,” Thirion said. “I have had a little bit of carpentry skill in the past, and so I could potentially follow 88 requirements and get everything done.”
He said that luckily the university provided its expertise and the ROTC committee was more than happy to help.
Thirion said the duration of the construction of the ramps was approximately two months.
“The biggest obstacle, honestly, wasn’t getting building materials and everything prepared,” Thirion
said. “It was getting a hold of the disabilities office.”
He said the disabilities office is extremely busy accomplishing wonders, so he had to wait about two or three
weeks just to get a signature from the office to get the approval for the bridge.
Thirion said the funds came out of the UCA Physical Plant maintenance funds.
He said any bridges or any benches on campus that need to be refurbished or replaced is paid for out of those funds.
“When I brought up this proposal [of the wheelchair ramps]they were like, ‘That is exactly what we could use
those funds for. That is exactly what it’s designed for,’” Thirion said.
He said the physical plant maintenance workers had to raise the ground level at the end of each bridge to prevent
erosion and they had to trim back a lot of shrubbery.
“All credit goes to physical plant,” Thirion said. “They have gone above and beyond for us.”
Thirion said as Conway strives to become more handicap and bike friendly, this bridge makes it possible
for people on bicycles or people that are wheelchair bound to do anything that they want to do here in Conway.
“I am thrilled to have the ramps on the southern bridge through the reserve,” Jewel Moore Nature Reserve
Director Katherine Larson said. “I have heard lots of positive comments from students in the reserve. The
ramps demonstrate some of the great collaborative efforts that go into making the reserve a great campus asset.”