Health & Wellness

Motorized "Track Chairs" Allow Disabled Visitors to Hit the Trails

National park in Michigan offers first-of-its-kind program to allow disabled visitors more access.

Being in nature is often a much-needed escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However, hitting the trails at a local nature park is not always an option for those in wheelchairs. That is, until now.

A national park in Michigan has recently began providing disabled individuals access to heavy duty wheelchairs that increase their hiking mobility. The new "track chairs" are equipped with treads that allow the chair to climb hilly terrain and navigate the sandy trails of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Visitors enjoy a hike along the Bay View Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The track chair program was implemented in May, and was created by Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, an organization dedicated to improving the outdoor experience at the park and making it more accessible to visitors.

"Here at Sleeping Dunes, about half of 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 is, without having to make major modifications."

Currently, the track chair is only available for use on one of the park's trails, and you're required to make a reservation for the chair at least 3 days in advance of your visit. A Track Chair host will be on hand to provide instructions on how to operate the chair on the trail and to offer some trail etiquette. It's free to use the track chair, however all visitors must purchase a National Park Pass, either at the park's visitor center or from neighboring organizations.

For more information or to reserve a chair, visit the organization's website.

To support Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes you can donate online, or you can provide cash or a check to the Track Chair Host at the time of your visit.

You may also mail a check to:

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes

P.O. Box 545

Empire, MI 49630

Just be sure to indicate the donation is for the Track Chair Program.

(All images c/o Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes.)

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