U.S. National Park Is the First to Offer Disabled Visitors a Heavy Duty Wheelchair

Photo Credit: National Park Service Digital Image Archives

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, located in Michigan, is the first U.S. National Park to offer a specially outfitted, off-trail style wheelchair to disabled visitors. Now, everyone can enjoy the trails.

It’s called the track chair, and it has treads in place of wheels – perfect for the park’s trails and hills, which can be steep and sandy. The track chair is part of a program started in May by Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Kerry Kelly, the chairman of the group’s board, told CNN:

“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) … 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.”

(click to the comments in the post below to see a video of the chair in action!)

Presently, the track chair is available for use on the 1.5 mile Bay View Trail–a loop that takes visitors past historic farms to an amazing view of Lake Michigan.

Kelly also said the group’s future plans includes use of the track chair on more trails and an additional chair for children. While the decked out chair cost around $13,000, it is free to use with an advance reservation.

Since Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes’ mission is to make the park accessible for all visitors, Kelly and the rest of his organization are working closely with the National Park Services on more programs to help all people enjoy the park’s fantastic beauty regardless of mobility.