His dream will lift barriers to fishing for all Pond to offer access for handicapped


January 10, 1993|By PETER BAKER

The aisles of Bass Expo at the Cow Palace in Timonium Friday afternoon were filled with fishermen testing the latest and best in tackle, related equipment and boats. At the back of the building on the state fairgrounds, Jim Lark was testing the waters to see how well his own idea would float.

Lark is president of a fledgling nonprofit organization named Fun Fishing Without Barriers, Inc. And amid the fishing pros, rows of vendors and the crowds of recreational fishermen, his group's project is unusual -- to provide recreational pond fishing for the physically disabled.

"Young, old, any age, no discrimination, just whatever they may be," Lark said, while pointing to a photo display of work underway at an undisclosed pond site in Northern Baltimore County. "We think these people should have the chance to go fishing."

Lark is a longtime fisherman, as are the other officers of FFWB, Skip Carey, Bobby Phillips and Mark Rodriguez. Each knows the pleasure and excitement of catching a fish, and each has volunteered his time and energy to plan and begin construction at the Baltimore County site.

"We have approval from Baltimore County to do this," Lark said, adding that county officials would monitor the project to ensure that state and federal building standards are met. "We have the site, which was donated by a landowner who liked the idea and gave us a piece of his front yard."

Plans call for a one-acre pond to be created and surrounded with ramps and barriers that could accommodate fishermen in wheel chairs. Lark said the group hopes to have the facility in operation by summer.

The pond will be 18 to 20 feet at its deepest, a volume of water that should be capable of holding enough fish to keep stationary anglers busy.

"We are not sure how we are going to stock it yet," Lark said. "I think the state is going to help us out on some of it.

"But we want to get some big fish in it, too."

Lark figures that after June 15, when the state regulations on bass will allow the possession of non-tidal bass over 15 inches, the larger fish will start coming in.

"A lot of the guys who fish will be donating some, catching them, putting them in livewells and bringing them to us," Lark said. "We want a variety of fish -- small, medium and large -- and we want to make sure that people catch fish.

"We don't want to have people going out there and sitting for two or three hours and not get a hit."

To ensure good fishing, Lark's group plans to place structure -- cinder blocks, tree stumps, etc. -- on the bottom of the pond where fishermen can easily cast to it from piers or ramps. The structure will hold the bass and the facility will put between a dozen and two dozen fishermen in the right places.

Lark said he has been thinking about such a project for a number of years, but that this project came together over the last several months.

Once the facility has been built, Lark said, FFWB wants to hold special events at the site, including clinics to teach handicapped anglers about fish behavior and fishing skills.

"What we really want to do is hold those kinds of special events, to teach and explain," Lark said, "and eventually to have [fishing] equipment donated so that we can just give it away."

If the project works well in Baltimore County, Lark is hopeful that similar ponds can be built in other areas of the state.

It is a project that will greatly benefit a relative few, Lark said, "But my own thoughts always were that you never know when you will be disabled. Any car accident on any day can do it."


Parties interested in volunteering time or expertise to the project may write Fun Fishing Without Barriers, Inc., 9029 Scott's Haven Drive, Baltimore 21234 or call (410) 661-6968.

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