Michigan parks making beaches, trails wheelchair accessible

A special track chair as well as beach wheelchairs are available at Michigan parks and beaches. (Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore)

LEELANAU COUNTY, Mich. (WTHR) — Volunteers and park rangers are working together to make beaches and trails more accessible to people with disabilities.

The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes and park rangers have collected enough money through grants and donations to purchase a track chair, which is designed to go through tough terrain and is the first of it's kind to be used at any national park, WPBN reported.

Since the debut of the track chair, only about a dozen people have used the resource. But volunteers and park rangers believe part of that is due to the fact that a lot of people aren't aware that it exists. So they're trying ot get the word out.

"We headed out yesterday with a lady that happens to be a personal friend of ours and she has muscular dystrophy, and really has very limited motion, and she was able to do the whole [3-mile] trail with the chair and the help of her father," said Laurie Pope, co-chair of the accessibility committee for Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. "I also want to stress that this chair is for someone that just can't walk that far, it doesn't have to be any kind of specific disability, anybody has access to this."

Additionally, beach wheelchairs, for adults and kids, are also available free of charge with a Park Pass within Lakeshore. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park says to check in with a volunteer at the Cannery or Maritime Museum if you or someone you know is interested.

The track chair, which has been available since May 2019, must be reserved. Anyone interested in using it can reserve online.

The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes hopes to purchase more track chairs in the near future to allow more people to enjoy the parks.