RIDGEWAY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Monday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) introduced the Track-Chair Program and beach wheelchairs at Ridgway State Park. It's a program to increase accessibility to the outdoors for park visitors.
“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.”
The Track-Chair Program has already been introduced at Staunton State Park in Jefferson County. To get the program going in Ridgway State Park, Staunton State Park donated one of its Action Trackchairs. CPW said its Hunting and Angling Outreach Programs donated funds for the program to help get a second chair. A trailer was even donated for safe storage.
CPW said visitors with limited mobility will be allowed to explore designated trails within the park using the track chairs.
“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.”
CPW said Park Ranger Erin Vogel implemented the Track-Chair Program at Ridway State Park.
“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.
CPW stated a new Trails Master Plan will add 14 miles to the existing trails at the park. Visitors can reserve a spot to use the track chairs. It's free to use but visitors will need to pay for 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.”
A 300-foot beach mat and two floating beach wheelchairs were also purchased thanks to a $19,000 grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The grant was secured by the Friends of Ridgway State Park, which is a non-profit organization founded in 1996.
All wheelchair users will be able to navigate sand on the Dutch Charlie Designated Swim Beach area of the park. The mat will allow visitors to travel all the way down and into the water.
“We hope this program removes some of the barriers for individuals and families to enjoy the swim beach,” Vogel said.
Visitors can check out the beach wheelchairs for free 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."