New chairs help visitors with mobility issues navigate trails, beaches
JEFFERSON CITY, MO, AUG. 21, 2023 – The Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks recently received new chairs for visitors with mobility challenges. Using the chairs, visitors can now navigate both land and water.
Produced by the Action Trackchair company, track chairs are electric all-terrain wheelchairs that offer guests with mobility challenges the opportunity to partake in outdoor activities. With a track chair, they can explore trails and visit parts of Missouri state parks or historic sites that are not suitable for regular wheelchairs. These sturdier, more rugged chairs use tank-like tracks instead of wheels to allow guests to traverse some of the rougher, uneven trails found in Missouri state parks. All-terrain track chairs can navigate through snow, water, mud, sand and other rough conditions.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to explore and enjoy our parks and historic sites,” said David Kelly, director of Missouri State Parks. “Wheelchairs provide important mobility for their users, but they aren’t always able to navigate our trails. Our all-terrain track chairs can!”
Missouri State Parks currently has three track chairs: one at Bryant Creek State Park in Ava, one at Battle of Lexington State Historic Site in Lexington, and one at Elephant Rocks State Park in Belleview. Bennett Spring State Park, outside of Lebanon, has applied for a grant to purchase another chair.
Using the track chair is free. Reservations must be made at least two days in advance. Also, a friend or family member 18 years or older must go along to help, because park representatives are not always available or able to help users transfer to or from the chair.
“Missouri state parks are open for everyone to enjoy, regardless of ability,” Kelly said. “We want all of our visitors to be able to discover the beauty of our parks and historic sites. This adaptive equipment will open up the trails that were once inaccessible to people with mobility issues.”
Chris Fritsche, superintendent of Battle of Lexington State Historic Site, recently had his first guest use the site’s track chair. Fristche said the guest was excited to be able to use the chair, and Fritsche was happy to be a part of the experience.
“This was the first time the visitor has ever been in nature on his own. It was also the first time he and his wife were able to hold hands while walking a trail or going from place to place, because he has always used a manual wheelchair or crutches,” Fritsche said. “The light in his eyes, when he first saw the track chair was enough to warm your heart, but the exuberance he had when he came back after using it was even more profound. Talk about making memories!”
In addition to track chairs, St. Joe, Echo Bluff and Sam A. Baker state parks have adaptive beach chairs for use in the water. Beach chairs allow wheelchair users, people with special needs or those who just need some assistance, the chance to play and splash in the water. The floating
beach chair provides a comfortable ride, along with easy mobility through sand and other rough surfaces. The armrests and wheels enable balance while in the water, and the handles provide stability while enjoying the ride on land or in the water.
“Being able to get on the beach and into the water lets beach chair users experience the sun and sand with their family and friends instead of being limited to paved trails and parking lots,” Kelly said.
To find out how to reserve a track chair, visit mostateparks.com/action-trackchair.
For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.