Written by Natasha Ewing
The energy in the room was electric. All of us were excited to touch, try and experience the new device sitting in the right corner of the room. The device – a TrailRider – looked a bit odd – almost like a hybrid between a stroller and a wheelbarrow. It had a comfy padded seat, sitting directly on top of a sturdy wheel, and two long handles projected out from the back and front. What was this interesting contraption?
A TrailRider is an adaptive single-tire “wheelchair” that is designed to facilitate opportunities for outdoor recreation on trails that might otherwise be beyond the physical limits of the individual or their traditional wheelchair or scooter. The device is “powered” by a team of two to six “porters” that maneuver the device in a “push – pull” motion. Together the rider and porters become an inclusive hiking team, sharing stories, taking in the scenery, and connecting with nature in a new way for all involved.
On June 3-5 BC Parks rangers, volunteers, and park operators from Omineca (Prince George Area) participated in a TrailRider workshop facilitated by Power to Be –an organization that empowers people living with barriers to explore their limitless abilities through adventures in nature.
With Mount Robson as our stunning backdrop, we were taught about the philosophy behind inclusive hiking, learned how to speak and act from a person-centred approached, and took turns riding in and pushing the TrailRider. The device was well balanced and relatively easy to maneuver, yet on steep or more challenging terrain, short breaks to switch out porters were needed. Functioning much like a beehive, each member coordinated their position amongst the team, embodying their role as porter, trail scanner, photographer, or naturalist. Many visitors were keen to see us out and about with the device and asked many questions, initiating another role as educator.
As a rider, I was amazed by how balanced and smooth the TrailRider felt. Leaning slightly back and letting my body relax against the seat and headrest, I was able to let go and become aware of my surroundings – the rushing blue water of the Robson River, the smells of the forest, the pretty wildflowers springing up alongside the trail. There was so much to take in. Many times, I had to imagine what this would be like for someone who had never experienced nature up close, and how surreal it would feel to connect with nature alongside an amazing group of people.
As we learned, laughed and experienced a new way to explore the great outdoors, the team was inspired by the stories we heard, the connections we had to someone “who would love this” sort of experience, and the deep desire to offer these nature-based opportunities.
As we continue to initiate and evolve the TrailRider program, we are thankful to the BC Parks volunteers and look forward to welcoming new park users. Please stay tuned for more information as inclusive hiking excursions become offered throughout the Robson Valley.
This project was made possible with funding from the sale and renewals of BC Parks licence plates. These funds support diverse projects related to conservation, community engagement and Indigenous relations. Learn more about how licence plate funding enhances our parks: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/licence-plates/