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New track chair allows West Michigan trail to be accessible to all

For those with limited mobility, navigating some nature trails can be a challenge.

LOWELL, Mich. — Spending time outdoors is therapeutic for many, but for those with limited mobility, navigating some nature trails can be a challenge. Adaptive equipment can help.

Franciscan Life Process Center is a local nonprofit who has made an investment to expand accessibility for all who visit their trails.

Site Manager, Cris Ritsema says this idea began after, "“Sister Mary, Margaret kept saying to me, I wish that we could make our trails more accessible to those that have mobility issues. Well, being the site manager that kind of stuck with me."

And that's when the brainstorming began.

“Could I modify the trails? Could we make them asphalt or could we put decking or something, all those things we could do, but between cost wise, and then maintenance wise, it's just became an issue and something that really wasn't feasible to do,” said Ritsema.

He says it wasn’t until he came across an article about a ‘action track chair’ and thought this may be “the way to go.”

“So we had a grant, and then we had to match some of it so that we were able to get this action track chair. And then you can make this accessible to everybody,” said Ritsema.

The all-terrain chair can go through mud, sand, snow, and even water with a built-in motor.

“If they're able to run it themselves, they can run it themselves. If they can't, we have a little joystick that somebody can walk behind and help them do that. So it just makes our boat three miles of trails, accessible to people so they can enjoy like the prairie or the woods,” said Ritsema.

And the chairs are available to anyone that needs it.

“It's not just for people who maybe is in a wheelchair it’s with anybody with mobility issues and may keep them from going into the woods,” said Ritsema. “I have a shirt that says nature cheaper than therapy. … it's kind of just wonderful to be out in the land and be able to do it so to have it close by for people that are in West Michigan.”

The chair is on a first come first serve basis, the center says if the demand is high  they would consider looking into an additional one for the trails.

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