Jim Molebash (center, with green shirt), representing the Kiwanis Club of Warsaw and Kiwanis International Foundation, makes the formal presentation of funding to the Winona Lake Limitless Park and Park Board Thursday for the new ADA kayak and canoe dock launch. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Jim Molebash (center, with green shirt), representing the Kiwanis Club of Warsaw and Kiwanis International Foundation, makes the formal presentation of funding to the Winona Lake Limitless Park and Park Board Thursday for the new ADA kayak and canoe dock launch. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
WINONA LAKE - Launching kayaks and canoes into Winona Lake at Winona Lake Limitless Park has gotten a little easier thanks to a number of people who wanted to make a difference.

On Thursday, the Kiwanis Club of Warsaw and the Winona Lake Limitless Park had a ribbon-cutting and first kayak launch with the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce for the park’s new universally accessible kayak launch.

The idea and planning for the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliant EZ Dock was hatched in late 2021, Kiwanis Club of Warsaw President Jim Molebash said during the Kiwanis meeting Thursday before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

On April 7, the local Kiwanis Club turned 101 years old.

“For more than 100 years, this Club has built and served this community,” Molebash said. “We built Kiwanis Park on Smith Street. We were involved in the preservation of Chinworth Bridge on Old 30 West. And we built a small park there with a canoe launch on the Tippecanoe River.”

Kiwanis helped in the organization Home Health Care, which now is Kosciusko Home Care & Hospice, he said, and was “front and center” in the formation of K.C. Riley Kids Fund. The fund provides assistance to parents of children who have to go to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

“It was this legacy of service that led us in November of last year to seek out a high-impact community project that we could use to commemorate our 100-plus years of service to this community,” Molebash said.

When the Club officers met to discuss a community project, Molebash mentioned a kayak launch that he had seen while he was on vacation with Jon Garber. They were on a sailing trip in Holland, Mich., at the Ottawa Beach Marina. They were stuck there for three days because of the weather, but they watched one after another at the facility launch and retrieve their kayaks.

Kiwanis President-elect Brock Tidball liked the idea of an accessible kayak launch and offered to do some research on it to see if it was a project the Kiwanis could do. He came back with a positive report and the project began to take shape, Molebash stated.

One of the big questions was where would they put it. Past President Cindy Cates suggested the Winona Lake Limitless Park. Someone else wondered if the Park would want something like that, so they decided to ask.

“I called Park Director Holly Hummitch and I said, ‘Our Kiwanis Club has an idea we’d like to share with you. Can we get together?’ We set a meeting and two weeks later when we met Kristie Maiers, Park Board president, was also in attendance at the meeting. And we were shocked when we found out why Kristie was there,” Molebash recalled.

Less than an hour before the meeting, Maiers and Hummitch had been on a conference call with AWS Foundation, discussing how they could work out funding for an ADA accessible kayak launch.

“I told Kristie you’ve got to recognize the hand of God when you see it,” Molebash said.

The Kiwanis wrote a grant to the Kiwanis Indiana Foundation, and thanks to the “polish” by retired Kosciusko County Community Foundation CEO Suzie Light, he said, the Kiwanis Indiana Foundation approved a grant. The Kiwanis Club of Warsaw approved additional funds and agreed to raise even more “and we were off and running,” Molebash said.

Kiwanis members Light and Joni Truex helped present the project to the Kosciusko County Convention and Recreation Visitors Commission. The KCCRVC granted a “significant sum” to the project, he said.

Recently, the Frank I. and Irene List Saemann Foundation also agreed to provide funding.

The Kiwanis Club raised additional funds by selling boat and car stickers with the help of Socks Marina, Heart of the Lakes Antique Mall, Peddles & Paddles and Conley Barber Shop. “And here we are today,” Molebash said.

He then recognized those who have been essential to the completion of the project, including the AWS Foundation, Kiwanis Indiana Foundation, Kiwanis Club of Warsaw, KCCRVC, Franklin I. and Irene List Saemann Foundation, Brock Tidball, Suzie Light, Joni Truex, Robin Brown, Kristie Maiers and Holly Hummitch.

“The reason Kristie and Holly had been talking to AWS that day, it had been a dream of Holly’s for a long time to have a facility like this,” Molebash said. “It was her dream and she was the one that physically made it happen.”

Maiers introduced the Winona Lake Park Board members. She said the new ADA kayak and canoe dock launch was Hummitch’s vision and the Board supports her but it takes a team effort for everything that happens at the park.

She said the canoe and kayak launch was part of the master plan, but it was a plan for five to eight years down the road, not six to eight months.

“So to Jim and the Kiwanis, KCCRVC, I’d like to thank all of you for helping make a vision for this community come to life in such a short amount of time,” Maiers said. “Thank you so much!”

After all the comments and the Kiwanis meeting was over, everyone went outside to the launch for the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce.

The Winona Lake Limitless Park ADA Kayak and Canoe Dock Launch is free for public use.

The park does offer kayak, canoe, paddleboats and paddleboard rentals. Kayaks are $10.70 per hour or $32.10 per day. Canoes are $7.49 per hour or $21.40 per day. Paddleboats are $7.49 per hour or $21.40 per hour, and paddleboards are $16.05 per hour or $48.15 per day. There is a $20 cash deposit per boat, which will be returned upon return of the equipment. There’s also a 3% merchant fee on credit card payments. Photo ID and waiver are required, and children must be accompanied by an adult (18 or older).

For more information, contact parkdept@winonalake.net or call 574-267-3210.