Fishermen Left on Shore as Accessible Pier Awaits Repairs

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GREENFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Fishing season has been underway for nearly a month, but at one local park, some people have been unable to fish because of a pier accessible to people with disabilities needs repairs.

One area fisherman says Lackawanna County is taking too long to fix the pier.

Lackawanna County's brochure for Merli Sarnoski Park touts its large, handicapped-accessible fishing pier.

Right now, the pier is accessible to no one

A local Vietnam veteran with severe leg and back injuries suffered serving our country says people like him are being cheated.

Steve Kokai, 71, rarely lets a sunny day go by without driving to Merli Sarnoski Park in Greenfield Township and going fishing.

"Enjoy fresh air, sunshine," Kokai said. "It's just a nice, relaxing, fun day."

But on this day, Steve can only watch his fellow fishermen in boats on the lake angle for trout while he sits on the shore.

Kokai and others depend on a floating pier that was built to accommodate people with disabilities. It gets them out into the lake and it has rails to help them when they walk.

The wheelchair ramp collapsed earlier this year. That forced Lackawanna County Parks Department to close the pier.

"People who pay for their licenses, and come here to be able to fish, can't do it," Kokai said.

Even before the ramp collapsed, you can also see the end of the pier bows towards the water, making the downward slope potentially dangerous to someone in a wheelchair

"We want to make sure that all of our citizens have an opportunity to go fishing," said Lackawanna County Commissioner Pat O'Malley.

Comm. O'Malley says the pier should be fixed as early as next week as soon as the right parts arrive. But when we asked what he'd say to people with disabilities who cannot fish here because of the damaged pier.

"Utilize our other parks. Utilize our other shorelines; we have four jewels of parks in Lackawanna County," the commissioner said.

Kokai says it's unfair. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission just stocked the lake with trout which are for other fishermen as long as the pier remains closed.

Lackawanna County will pay a company based on Lake Wallenpaupack about $7,000 to fix the pier

Some county officials say they understand the frustration of fishermen with disabilities and add that because of the unique design of the pier and the parts needed, it simply could not be fixed any sooner.

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