by: Hannah Moore
Posted: Jul 7, 2023 / 10:57 AM EDT
(WATE) — Great Smoky Mountains National Park is working to make the park more accessible for people of all abilities through a new program and providing adaptive off-road equipment.
GSMNP has partnered with Knox County, Catalyst Sports, and Friends of the Smokies to create three ‘Adaptive Adventures’ programs this summer.
For this program, rangers and volunteers will lead one biking and two hiking programs. These programs will use off-road wheelchairs and adaptive mountain bikes, to accommodate participants of all abilities. The trails have been evaluated to ensure that the equipment is suitable for use.
“Programs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park play a vital role in fostering an adaptive community, as they offer an opportunity for individuals to connect with and understand the natural world around them,” said Catalyst Sports CEO Eric Gray. “People can engage in activities that promote environmental awareness and conservation thereby cultivating a deeper sense of stewardship and responsibility for the park’s resources.”
The programs will take place on the following dates:
Registration is required to make sure that there is enough equipment and volunteers for the programs. To register, click here. Participants are also welcome to bring their own adaptive equipment.
Once the programs are complete, two GRIT Freedom Chairs, a type of off-road wheelchair, will be available for people to check out. The chairs can be used on park trails evaluated for the equipment, including the Deep Creek and Little River trails.
“Adaptive equipment like the GRIT Freedom Chair allows people the ability to move beyond the pavement to explore areas that wouldn’t be possible to access without these valuable mobility devices,” said Knox County ADA Coordinator Carly Pearson.
The programs and chairs were made possible by a $16,390 grant from National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), Ensuring Access and Enjoyment for All Visitors through Assistive Technology and Inclusive Programs.
For those who would like to volunteer for the program, there will be an Accessibility and Adaptive Equipment Training on Saturday, July 15, from 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. at Oconaluftee Visitor Center Training Room, near the Cherokee entrance to the park. To register to volunteer contact Katherine Corrigan at Katherine_Corrigan@nps.gov.