This national park in Michigan has just become the first to implement heavy-duty wheelchairs as a means of allowing disabled visitors to enjoy their trails.
The “track chair” is a wheelchair that has been equipped with treads to navigate the steep hills and sandy trails of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The track chair program, which was launched in May, was created by Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes—an organization that specializes in making the park more accessible to visitors.
“Here at Sleeping Bear Dunes, about half the park is designated wilderness so in those areas we can’t do a lot of maintenance or changes [to increase accessibility,]” group board chairman Kerry Kelly told CNN. “So the better option is to have a vehicle that can take the person into these areas so they can experience the trail as it is without having to make major modifications.”
The track chair can currently only be rented out for use on the 1.5-mile long Bay View Trail; however, the organization says that the track chair has already been utilized by dozens of visitors.
The track chair is free for visitors to use so long as they reserve it several days in advance.
Friends of Sleeping Bear soon hope to purchase an additional track chair for young visitors to use by the end of the summer. They also hope that other national parks will implement similar programs in their own parks so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of nature—regardless of their disability.
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