William J Rish Recreational Park is a great place to spend time at the beach. The park is strictly for Florida residents with disabilities. Their families and/or care-givers are allowed to come too! “It is named in memory of the state legislator who created it—Representative William Joseph Rish. It’s often called Billy Joe Rish Park, because locals referred to their longtime legislator as Billy Joe Rish.”
The west side or beach side of the park is in great shape now. There are large cabins for overnight stays. Everything within the round shaped cabins are wheelchair accessible. You can barbecue, sit in the sun, play board games, visit with your neighbors or just wander up, down and around the park. The boardwalks have been redone with special long-lasting artificial boards and they are throughout the park. The park manager is working on a mini golf course in and around the cabin areas. They have an olympic-size pool with a wheelchair ramp into the pool. The pool is not heated and is not opened during the winter months. The boardwalks wind around and down to the Gulf Beach area and when the tides are out the hard-packed sand is great for walking, running, wheeling and of course swimming and surf fishing. Day visitors are also welcome to visit the park, swim in the pool (when it is open), and go down to the beach area for the day. Download A Complete Packet of Rish Park Information, Application for Reservations and More – Click HERE!
With all the Gulf Coast storms over the last few years the park has had to close the east side or bay side area of the park. They use to have RV camping spots with shower rooms, fishing in a freshwater pond and the brackish St. Joseph’s Bay and boardwalks throughout the area. The fresh water pond was kept stocked by the local Fish and Wildlife Management Department however since the area was closed to the public no new fish has been added. But I bet what fish were left there have really gotten big! The boardwalks are weathered and falling apart. The camping area is overgrown and all the bathhouses and utilities will need to be replaced. There was only enough money to get the beach side of the park up and running after the last set of hurricanes. They need our help to get the bay side area repaired and back up to code!
We visited with the manager before we left St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park and he graciously walked us through all the facilities, talked to us about the park and their future hopes for getting the bay side area up and running. He even allowed us to walk around the bay side area to take pictures of some of the things that needed doing. The Agency for Persons With Disabilities are responsible for the funding and management of the park. They want to keep the park available only to Florida residents as this was the wish of the founder of the park. However, due to the current economic climate they are planning to open the park for out-of-state visitors. It will still only be available to those with disabilities and their families and/or care givers. Currently, they only charge $5 per day per person and $15 per night per person. For groups larger than 60 it is $12 per person. You can even rent the entire park for $650 per night. That is a pretty great price considering you get the cabins, the pool area, beach access and the main hall with full kitchen facilities, and even large screen video set-up to watch movies or give presentations. They eventually want to add an online reservation system (currently done by hand), online payment system and finally, have more volunteer positions once the RV Camping area is completed.
If you would like to help with donations, volunteering or get more information about the park, it’s facilities or even take a tour you can contact the Sunland Center and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities at the following phone numbers:
3700 Williams Drive
Marianna, Florida 32446
(850) 482-9386 Central Time
Monday – Friday
8am to 4:30pm
William J Rish Recreational Park
6773 Cape San Blas Road
Port St. Joe, Florida 32456
Videos About the Park on YouTube:
1:28 by WaltonOutdoors uploaded 4/11/2013
5:12 by Freedomplayground Sept 21, 2010 Family Video of Cottage 2
Rish Park 2005 – JR Harding 4:41 www.rishpark.org publish on youtube 07/16/2013
Here is our Gallery of Pictures of the East or Bay Side of the Park that desperately needs our help!