DNR rolls out all-terrain track chairs at Minnesota State Parks
MINNESOTA (Valley News Live) - The Department of Natural Resources is adding equipment to make parks and trails across the state more accessible. They just rolled out all-terrain track chairs.
The Minnesota DNR is partnering with the Minnesota Council on Disability and local government agencies to expand access to parks and trails. Five state parks will offer all-terrain wheelchairs to give more people access to forests, prairies and wetlands.
“Enhancing that accessibility benefits those Minnesotans and their ability to enjoy these spaces that are for them, as well as for the rest of us,” said Shannon Lotthammer with the DNR. “And it also enhances those of us who aren’t experiencing a disability but who want to be there with our friends and our families and our neighbors.”
The track chairs are at Myre Big Island State Park, Camden State Park and Crow Wing State Park. Later in June, Lake Bemidji State Park will get a track chair. The fifth one will be at Maplewood State Park toward the end of the summer.
Approximately one in four people in the U.S. are living with some form of disability. The chairs were unveiled on June 1 and several people got to try them out for the first time.
“You’re wrapped in such freedom of movement,” said Brittanie Wilson with the Minnesota Council on Disability. “I was out for about an hour and had the best time.”
Brittanie says she’s had an electric wheelchair her whole life; However, the electric wheelchair doesn’t give her the freedom to go out into nature or off-road.
“Being in the [all-terrain] chair within a couple of minutes you really gain an understanding of what it’s like to have your body go places that it has never been able to go before,” Wilson said.
There is no charge to use the track chairs, but you do need a state park vehicle permit. Park staff is not available to help with chair transfers, but every location has a transfer board to use. No other equipment is available, so people are encouraged to bring a friend or caregiver if they need assistance.
The DNR says the chairs work just as well in the snow so they are available for use at state parks year-round. For more information, visit the DNR’s website.
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