Rish Recreational Park Sign Unveiling

By Katie Strickland

Nestled between the sand dunes bordering the beach on the Gulf of Mexico, William J. “Billy Joe” Rish Recreational Park is located in the Florida Panhandle on the St. Joseph Peninsula, 30 miles west of Apalachicola and 15 miles around St. Joseph Bay from Port St. Joe. On February 24, APD staff, family of the late State Representative Billy Joe Rish, and other guests gathered for a sign unveiling of a new entrance sign.

Sunland Director of Centralized Support Services James Godwin began the program in the event hall welcoming the crowd. Jay Rish, son of Billy Joe Rish, shared and celebrated his father’s legacy and the vision he had for the park. Former Representative Rish was a strong advocate for the development of a safe, outdoor recreational area for Florida’s citizens with disabilities. Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Communications Director praised former Representative Rish for his innovation and commitment to the park.

After the remarks, the crowd migrated outdoors for the sign unveiling at the entrance of the park. The grey sign with white lettering and the green, gold, and blue Rish Park insignia was revealed with applause from the attendees. Park Manager Victor Rowland thanked guests for their attendance and invited everyone back into the event hall for a celebratory lunch.

A low country boil was served by Sunland residents participating in the center’s culinary program. The meal of shrimp, crawfish, sausage, potatoes, and corn on the cob was enjoyed by guests. The skilled and professional wait staff refilled drinks, cleared plates, provided condiments, and served dessert.

Following lunch, guests toured the new bayside improvements. Park Manager Victor Rowland showed Carol Rish, the wife of Billy Joe, and Jeff and Cathy Rish Womac, his son-in-law and daughter, along with Jeff and Cathy’s son Steven, the new boardwalk down to St. Joseph Bay. The current boardwalk has restrooms, an industrial kitchen, and private open-air changing rooms. There are plans to provide access to the bay in the future.

Rish Recreational Park is a 100-acre recreational park with both Gulf access and bayside views open to those with disabilities and their families. The park provides patrons a safe beach experience that is completely ADA accessible. Accommodations are available onsite. For more information on Rish Park, please visit: http://apd.myflorida.com/rish-park/index.htm.

The new sign unveiling.

The Rish family. From right to left: Jay Rish, Carol Rish, and Cathy Rish Womac.