The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is expanding its track chair program to 13 state parks in August 2023. The track chairs, which are all-terrain, electric powered chairs, can be used on designated trails within the parks.
These chairs can help visitors explore areas of the state parks in new ways, often on trails that are not suitable for regular wheelchairs.
The track chair program is an innovative initiative that aims to increase accessibility for people with disabilities to the outdoors. The chairs are available year-round in some locations, and seasonally in others.
Visitors are advised to call ahead to ensure a track chair will be available during their visit. The chairs are available to anyone who has a need, and there is no charge to use the chair. However, a state park vehicle permit is required for all vehicles entering the park.
The program is set to expand to several locations including Blue Mounds State Park, Camden State Park, Crow Wing State Park, Father Hennepin State Park, Fort Snelling State Park, Frontenac State Park, Itasca State Park, Lake Bemidji State Park, Lake Carlos State Park, McCarthy Beach State Park, Maplewood State Park, Myre-Big Island State Park, and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.
According to a report by Bemidji Now, each location has a transfer board available for those who need help with transfer to or from the chair.
In addition to the track chair program, McCarthy Beach State Park offers an adaptive beach chair, so everyone can enjoy a swimming beach experience at one of the finest beaches in the Minnesota state park system.
A mat across the sandy beach provides easy access to the waterfront, and the beach chair can go right into the water. The beach chair floats in the water thanks to floating armrests and wheels.
The expansion of the track chair program is a significant step towards making outdoor recreation more accessible for all. By providing equipment that can handle a variety of terrains, the DNR is opening up new opportunities for people with disabilities to explore and enjoy the state parks.
This not only enhances the quality of life for individuals with disabilities but also promotes inclusivity in outdoor recreation.
The impact of this program extends beyond the individual users of the track chairs. By making the state parks more accessible, the program could potentially attract more visitors to the parks. This could lead to increased revenue from park fees, which can be reinvested in park maintenance and improvements.
Furthermore, the increased visitor numbers could have a positive impact on the local economy. Visitors to the parks may also spend money at local businesses, such as restaurants and hotels, boosting local tourism and creating jobs.
The expansion of the DNR’s track chair program is a win-win situation for all involved. It improves accessibility for people with disabilities, promotes inclusivity, boosts visitor numbers to the state parks, and benefits the local economy. It’s a shining example of how innovative thinking can lead to positive outcomes for all.