What difference can one passionate individual and a committed park management organisation make to giving people of limited mobility access to parks? A huge amount as it turns out, and in Australia that’s exactly what’s happening!
Almost five years ago on holiday in Canada, David Stratton first rode in a one-wheeled all terrain chair – a TrailRider – pushed by helpers who steered his chair along a bush track. From that very first ride, he became a man on a mission.
“An experienced bushwalker and hiker in years gone by, until multiple sclerosis took its toll, I had finally found a way to be part of some of nature’s most beautiful places again and I was overjoyed,” said David.
David and his wife and carer Ros approached the Ranger in Charge at Grampians National Park. It was the start of a long and fruitful partnership that now sees 11 chairs located around Australia, nine of those in Victoria. And the number will only increase from there.
Their passion for the TrailRiders was matched by Parks Victoria’s commitment to ensuring everyone has access to Victoria’s parks. Getting TrailRiders into parks was at times a long and involved process, ordering and transporting the chairs from the manufacturer in Canada. Working together with other partners including local governments, the awareness of these chairs and the great access they offer to the wilderness is growing month by month.
“The TrailRiders are just one of the ways Parks Victoria supports people of all abilities to be able to enjoy our parks,” said Parks Victoria’s Community Activation Coordinator John Kenwright.
“We also have beach wheelchairs, all abilities playgrounds and wheelchair friendly accommodation within a park setting, for example at Wilsons Promontory National Park and Cape Conran Coastal Park. Comprehensive parks access information is available on our website for over 35 of our most visited parks, helping visitors to plan their park visit. This means that regardless of physical abilities, everyone can enjoy some of our most special places,” said John.
The next focus for David and Parks Victoria is to recruit more trained volunteers, called Sherpas to assist visitors to push and pull the TrailRider chairs along the many spectacular park trails. Some simple training and the willingness to have a go is all that’s required for volunteers.
“None of this would have been possible without the close day-by-day support of Ros and the family and friends who have been such willing sherpas.”
If you are interested in investigating a TrailRider for your park or community (regardless of which country you are in) or sherpa training contact Parks Victoria on email@example.com
If you would like to hear more from David Stratton, he will be speaking at World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia in November 2014.
Find out more about David Stratton’s journey and the TrailRiders at Wild Places
Find out more about accessibility equipment available in Victoria’s parks.