ST PAUL, Minn. — After introducing "track chairs" at five state parks last summer, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced they're going to start offering the all-terrain wheelchairs at more parks across the state.
By Aug. 1, track chairs will be available at 13 state parks across Minnesota. The DNR says the chairs are for use on trails that are not suitable for traditional wheelchairs, allowing visitors to explore areas of the parks they may not have previously had access to.
"Having the ability to use an all-terrain wheelchair in state parks is really transformative because normally we're kind of stuck to very short and limited trails. The all-terrain vehicles allow you to go places that we've never been before so it's pretty awesome," said Nikki Villavicencio, chair of the Minnesota Council on Disability.
Sara Berhow, public relations supervisor for parks and trails at the DNR, said their first year of having track chairs was a great success and that there is an appetite to continue growing the program moving forward.
"It's not just making it a good experience for the person using the track chair, either. It means that groups of family and friends can go out and explore together in the ways that they wouldn't' be able to do without this adaptive equipment," Berhow said.
Here's a list of the parks that are offering the chairs:
- Blue Mounds State Park — (507) 283-6050
- Camden State Park — (507) 872-7031
- Crow Wing State Park — (218) 825-3075
- Father Hennepin State Park — (320) 676-8763
- Fort Snelling State Park — (612) 279-3550
- Frontenac State Park — (651) 299-3000
- Itasca State Park — (218) 699-7251
- Lake Bemidji State Park — (218) 308-2300
- Lake Carlos State Park — (320) 852-7200
- McCarthy Beach State Park — (218) 274-7200
- Maplewood State Park — (218) 863-8383
- Myre-Big Island State Park — (507) 668-7060
- Split Rock Lighthouse State Park — (218) 595-7625
Officials are encouraging people to call and reserve the chairs ahead of time to ensure they're available. The chairs are free but a state park vehicle permit is required for any vehicle going into a park. There are discounted vehicle permits for anyone with a vehicle hang tag for a disability.
Track chair trails maps for Crow Wing State Park, Lake Bemidji State Park and Maplewood State Park are also available, and McCarthy Beach State Park is continuing to offer adaptive beach chairs.
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