Planning a family reunion can be quite a challenge, especially if it’s a multi-day event that requires overnight lodging. On the other hand, a large house or cabin allows folks to visit and reminisce for the entire weekend. And although finding a reunion house is one thing, finding one that is wheelchair-accessible can be an added challenge. And in that respect Stanford House (www.conservancyforcvnp.org/experience/plan-your-visit/retreats-lodging) — which is located in Northeastern Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park (www.nps.gov/cuva) — fills the bill perfectly.
Historic Stanford House
Located near Boston Mills Visitor Center, Stanford House was built in 1843 and can accommodate up to 30 overnight guests. And the good news is, access features have been added over the years to this historic home, so today it’s a great multigenerational lodging choice.
There’s accessible parking in front of the two-story home, and a barrier-free pathway over to the front porch. The grand old home features wide doorways, wood floors, good pathway access and wheelchair access on the first floor. The home is decorated with vintage wallpaper, stately wood moldings and historic chandeliers; while several comfortable rocking chairs line the accessible front porch.
The living room is furnished with a sofa, two love seats, a settee and a few chairs; and there’s still plenty of room to maneuver a wheelchair or scooter around the period pieces and reproductions.
The dining room is massive and it includes two long wooden tables which each can each seat 16 people. There’s a small hutch which is filled with cups, plates, glasses and dishes; and the adjacent commercial kitchen is equipped with a refrigerator, freezer, microwave, and just about every small appliance and utensil you can imagine. And if you’d like to dine outside, there’s level access to a picnic table on the lawn, and the nearby fire circle.
Access Features Galore
Although the bulk of the dormitory style sleeping areas are located upstairs, there’s also an accessible suite located on the first floor. It’s furnished with two 19-inch high twin beds with wheelchair access on both sides, as well as a trundle daybed that has a 21-inch high mattress and an eleven-inch high mattress. Truly wheelchair-users have their choice of bed heights in this home. Top it off with a lowered bedroom mirror and you have a nice accessible room.
The adjacent bathroom features a full five-foot turning radius and is equipped with a 36-inch square transfer shower, with a fold-down shower bench, grab bars and a hand-held-showerhead. There’s ample floor space in front of the shower to transfer to the shower bench, and level access to roll-in to the unit for folks that bring their own shower chairs. Other bathroom access features include a roll-under sink, and a toilet with a grab bar on the left side (as seated).
The access features are well done, and truly this room will work for folks with a wide range of mobility disabilities. Additionally, the home is secluded and private, so your group will have the area all to yourself.
Enjoy the Park
Stanford House also makes perfect home base for daily jaunts to some of park’s accessible attractions. At the top of the list is the Canal Exploration Center, which is located on the north end of the park. There’s accessible parking with level access to the front entrance of this former 1800s tavern, which now houses a store and an information center. And since the paved towpath runs right in front of the building, you can take an accessible hike in either direction.
Brecksville Nature Center, which is located near the Station Road Bridge, is also worth a stop. Accessible parking is located next to an accessible picnic table, so pack along a lunch and enjoy a midday break. From there it’s a .15-mile walk on an accessible trail to the nature center. Accessible restrooms are located next door, and there’s level access to the nature center, which features a number of interpretive exhibits. The building also boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the garden bird feeders. It’s an excellent place to sit back and enjoy some of the 200-plus different avian visitors that have been spotted in the park.
Finally, save some time for a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (www.cvsr.org). The 2.5-hour scenic excursion winds through the park, and offers visitors a good overview of the area. Even better, the train has a purpose-built accessible car, which features a lift, 60 seats that can be flipped up to accommodate wheelchair-users, and an accessible restroom. The trip begins at the Rockside Station in Independence and heads south along the Cuyahoga River, before it winds its way down to the Akron Northside Station. After that, it turns around and heads back to the Rockside Station. It’s a great way to explore the park, and you just can’t beat the views.