Will-A-Way Recreation Area gets historic marker

The Georgia Historical Society has announced the unveiling of a new historical marker in Barrow County recognizing Will-A-Way Recreation Area, the first comprehensive outdoor recreational facility in the United States designed for people with disabilities.

The marker was erected by the Georgia Historical Society in conjunction with Camp Twin Lakes.

Opening inside Fort Yargo State Park in 1971, Will-A-Way Recreation Area aimed to provide a comfortable space for people with disabilities by removing physical and psychological barriers typically faced in outdoor areas. The completion of Will-A-Way predated the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) by nearly 20 years.

“The Will-A-Way historical marker tells the important story of creating an accessible recreation area for Georgians with disabilities,” said Elyse Butler, Georgia Historical Society Marker Manager. “The historical marker recognizes Will-A-Way as a model for accessible recreation areas across the nation and is the first marker in Georgia addressing disability rights.”

Today, Will-A-Way is operated by Camp Twin Lakes and provides a space for intentional camp programs for children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and other life challenges.

“We are so grateful to the Georgia Historical Society for highlighting Georgia’s pioneering effort to bring accessible recreation to people with disabilities at Fort Yargo’s Will-A-Way Recreation Area,” said Camp Twin Lakes Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager Ashley Henderson. “Camp Twin Lakes is honored to continue to be a steward of this historic place and deliver fully adaptive, medically supportive, and deeply impactful camp experiences to more than 10,000 of Georgia’s children and young adults each year, helping each camper grow in their confidence and experience the joys of childhood.”

Speakers at the dedication included Walter Rabon, Deputy Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Jill Morrisey, Camp Twin Lakes CEO; Elyse Butler, Georgia Historical Society Marker Manager; Ashley Henderson, Camp Twin Lakes Volunteer and Community Engagement Manager; Mayor David Maynard, Mayor of Winder, Georgia; Tom Wilkins, representing the Wilkins Family, namesake of the Wilkins Greenway Trail connecting Fort Yargo State Park and the City of Winder; and Jeff Cown, Director of Parks & Sites Division at Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The marker reads as follows:

Will-A-Way Recreation Area

Completed in 1971, Will-A-Way Recreational Area was the nation’s first comprehensive outdoor recreational facility designed for people with disabilities. Beginning in 1966, the Georgia Department of State Parks met with multiple agencies to develop a recreation area that would eliminate the physical and psychological barriers experienced by people with disabilities. The state selected Fort Yargo State Park as the site for the recreational area due to its proximity to a large percentage of Georgia’s population. Created through matching state and federal funds, Will-A-Way consisted of a day-use area, group camp, and family cabins. Nearly 20 years before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) requiring equal rights for people with disabilities, Will-A-Way served as a model for other states seeking to build more inclusive recreational areas.

Erected by the Georgia Historical Society and Camp Twin Lakes

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