Whether floating off the swim beach or cruising along trails, the disabled community will find a world of adventures at Ridgway State Park.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in its mission to increase accessibility to the outdoors for all, has announced the addition of a Track-Chair Program and beach wheelchairs at Ridgway State Park.
“This is priceless. To be able to provide this opportunity not only to our local communities but to the people visiting the park from all over the world, this is just priceless,” said Park Manager Johnathon Freeborn. “When you see the look on a kid’s face who is getting to play on the beach or along our trails, that’s why we do the job we do at our state parks.”
CPW has a highly successful Track-Chair Program in place at Staunton State Park in Jefferson County. Staunton State Park donated one of its Action Trackchairs® to Ridgway State Park to get its program going. CPW’s Hunting and Angling Outreach Programs were able to provide funding for a second chair and donated a trailer for safe storage.
The track-chairs will allow visitors with limited mobility to be able to explore designated trails within the park.
“This is a unique opportunity for us here on the Western Slope where there just aren’t as many opportunities for this kind of access like there are on the Front Range,” Freeborn said. “Ridgway now being able to provide this is pretty special.”
Park Ranger Erin Vogel has worked to implement a Track-Chair Program at Ridgway State Park and recently took the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program on a trial ride on the park’s Forest Discovery Trail.
“We are so excited to be able to offer this type of access on a few of our trails and look forward to partnering with a variety of organizations,” Vogel said.
The Ridgway State Park Track-Chair Program will continue to expand as the park builds a new Trails Master Plan to add to the 14 miles of existing trails at the park. The track chairs will be available via reservation. And reservations will be free except for the cost of park entry.
“As part of our master plan, we want to increase areas for the track chairs and widen some existing trails to make them more accessible,” Freeborn said. “Not every mile of the park will be track-chair accessible, but we want to do it for all the trails that make sense.”
Friends of Ridgway State Park, a non-profit organization founded in 1996 to support the park, also worked with staff to secure a roughly $19,000 grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation that allowed the park to purchase a beach mat as well as two floating beach wheelchairs.
The 300-foot Mobi-Mat® will allow all wheelchair users to navigate sand on the Dutch Charlie Designated Swim Beach area of the park all the way down to the water. The floating MobiChair® will allow users to safely enter the water.
“We hope this program removes some of the barriers for individuals and families to enjoy the swim beach,” Vogel said.
Use of the beach wheelchairs will be free, except for the cost of park entry. They will be available to check out at the Dutch Charlie Designated Swim Beach.
“This is a huge step forward in enhancing accessibility for visitors to our state parks in the Southwest Region,” said CPW Deputy Region Manager Heath Kehm. “Ridgway State Park is our most visited park in the region and provides a wide array of recreational opportunities. Being able to expand those offerings to members of the disabled community is a priority for CPW, and we are eager to build upon these programs in the future.”
Written by John Livingston. John is the Southwest region public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.