Merit Award Winner

Project Name:  Bradford Beach All-Inclusive Access 
Location:  Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Design Team:  R.A. Smith

This first-of-its-kind project was designed to develop the most accessible beach in America. There are approximately over 100,000 people living with disabilities in the Milwaukee area who previously didn’t have access to the beach. The client had a longtime vision and passion to do something about it. 

As part of a larger program to provide universal recreational opportunities, this project features an all-inclusive access path and amenities for people impacted by disabilities and those without physical limitations. On July 24, 2020, a ribbon-cutting event was held to celebrate the completion of this new, all-inclusive access path, officially transforming the beach into America’s most accessible beach. Now everyBODY in the community has the opportunity to safely, comfortably access the beach for enjoying the lakefront. 

This inspiring project represents a successful collaboration between various stakeholders. It has helped change lives by providing an important opportunity for much-needed outdoor recreation for everyBODY. And it illustrates the goal of the client’s organization to transform greater Milwaukee into the most universally inclusive recreation destination in the world. 

In collaboration with the client, stakeholders and County park staff, the landscape architect developed a schematic design with a layout of the entry plaza, accessible ramp to the beach and steps down to the beach. The landscape architect facilitated several meetings to gain project approval through applicable agencies and committees, and coordinated with the contractor to establish budgets and a schedule for construction. Additionally, the landscape architect prepared a planting plan for the “beachscape” that included native dune grasses and other native plantings suitable for the sandy beach conditions. 

This first-of-its-kind project has transformed Bradford Beach into the most accessible beach in America, providing all-inclusive, welcoming access for people impacted by disabilities (and everyBODY). The thoughtfully designed path exceeds ADA standards by using 6.5-foot-wide beach mats so people using wheelchairs can roll side-by-side, just like the able-bodied can walk shoulder-to-shoulder. The accessible path doesn’t end at the beach – it takes people all the way to the water’s edge and includes an extension so those with physical limitations can access the concessions. This unique development creates a welcoming, comfortable environment and provides an important recreational opportunity for everyone in the community, ensuring they have access to the beach for enjoying the lakefront. 

There will be a monument stone placed at the site to recognize the importance of this project to the overall community. The plaque will include braille for those with visual limitations.