National Parks Improving Accessibility

Summer plans to visit the beach or a national park may seem a long way off right now and for adults with mobility problems, a distant memory or a wishful dream.  But in parks and nature areas across the United States, organizations are providing off-road fat tire motorized wheelchairs for rent that allow users to experience the unique joy of spending time in nature, with the sand between their toes or atop a steep trail taking in the view.

Recent studies have found that spending time in nature can improve well-being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate and stress, and help to combat symptoms of depression or anxiety.  For people in a wheelchair, traversing a forest path or getting lost watching the waves roll in on a secluded beach can seem unattainable.  But small grass-roots groups are working to make the beauty of nature accessible to all people while preserving wilderness areas. 

In Michigan, Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes have installed a Track Chair that gives differently-abled people the opportunity to explore local trails and views of Lake Michigan on a 1.5-mile trail.  Rental is free but plan on reserving far in advance due to the huge success of the endeavor.  Plans are underway for a second chair and although the program is not operational over the winter, the Track Chair will start up again Memorial Day weekend 2020, with reservations beginning May 15.  

In California, beach wheelchairs can be rented or borrowed at many beaches; numerous state parks also have boardwalks accessible to wheelchairs.  Beach wheelchairs usually require a friend or two to do the pushing, although some motorized chairs can be rented by the day.  Learn more about which beaches offer Beach Wheelchairs by following this link to the California Coastal Commission.

Across Canada, many national parks have also developed accessible recreational paths. Many of the shorter trails in Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta are suitable for an all-terrain wheelchair and mobility scooter rentals are available at the Banff Train Station.   To learn more visit Accessible Nature here.  Or visit the Parks Canada website for more details about accessible trails for visitors.

It’s not too early to start planning your next outdoor adventure!