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El Paso County aims to make park trails more accessible with new program

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., (KRDO) --A new trail access program in El Paso County is set to give people living with disabilities an opportunity to explore nature at no cost.

Come summer, they'll be able to enjoy trails at Bear Creek Park and Fountain Creek with the help of new terrain hoppers.

A terrain hopper is an off-road mobility vehicle that usually ranges at about $18,000.

The Independence Center, a non-profit that works to empower people with disabilities, donated a $25,000 check to help with the costs.

For Jeremy Chatelain, a Colorado Springs resident and a religious educator at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, being able to explore the trails in the Olympic City is a dream come true.

"I wept," said Chatelain, "To know again that I can be out, I can smell the pine trees and not hear the traffic anymore."

Chatelain lost his ability to walk 23 years ago while on vacation with his wife. It wasn't until a year ago that he was finally able to explore the mountains without feeling restricted.

"Our son was with us and we were going down a hill and suddenly I hear my boy say 'hey dad! Come over here!' said Chatelain, "He was over by a river looking at a log that he had placed over a stream, and for the first time in his entire life, I was able to go over there. It was thrilling, I was a dad again," said Chatelain.

He now wants other people who may be struggling to have the same opportunity and explore the outdoors without feeling any limitations.

He brought the idea to light and inspired the El Paso County Community Services Department to jump on board. 

"The county is trying to improve the accessibility throughout all of our facilities and our park and trails and this is one opportunity for us to continue that process," added Todd Marts, El Paso County Community Services Executive Director.

The county is hoping to have the two off-road mobile vehicles by summer. One will live at Bear Creek Park and the other at Fountain Creek.

Additionally, this is the first time El Paso County has done anything like this.

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Jasmine Arenas

Jasmine is an MMJ and Anchor for Telemundo Surco and KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Jasmine here.

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