For many British Columbians, getting out into nature is as simple as strolling around a local park, driving a short distance out of town for a day hike, or planning a weekend of camping with friends. For those who experience physical barriers to mobility, adventuring in the great outdoors can be more challenging. In the Thompson-Okanagan region, BC Parks has partnered with the Shuswap TrailRider Adaptive Adventure Society (STAAS) to empower those with mobility challenges to experience nature in innovative and exhilarating ways.
As a BC Parks Community Liaison Officer, I’ve worked with STAAS as they expand their fleet of adaptive recreation equipment. Through the BC Parks License Plate Program all net proceeds from the sale and renewals of BC Parks plates are re-invested back into provincial parks. These funds support diverse projects related to Conservation, Community Engagement and Education, and Indigenous Relations. The BC Parks Licence Plate Project has been able to support STAAS to purchase adaptive recreation equipment including: TrailRiders, an adaptive stand-up paddleboard, and most recently, new adaptive beach equipment – all of which STAAS provides free of charge for users in the sunny Shuswap.
STAAS, a small but mighty volunteer organization, invited BC Parks to tag along on a few field trips this summer to demonstrate the new equipment in action in the forest, on the beach and in the water. These field trips opened my eyes to the incredible impact that access to adaptive equipment – and in turn, access to nature – can have for people with mobility challenges. On our first outing to Tsútswecw Park (Roderick Haig-Brown), STAAS president Debra McDonald (pictured below) described her motivation for volunteering so much time to the the cause: the feeling of freedom, peace and increased quality of life that comes along with being in nature – feelings she wants people of all abilities to be able to experience through the use of this new equipment.
For example, this WaterWheels floating wheelchair provides a safe, comfortable way for wheelchair users to beat the sweltering heat of the Shuswap summers by getting into the water and floating with family and friends. A portable access mat rolls out over the sand or gravel to create a non-slip path making it possible for people using wheelchairs (floating or not!), walkers, canes and strollers to access the beach and water.
STAAS also provides a pair of TrailRiders to anyone needing a little extra help getting out onto the Shuswap trails. These chairs have a single burly wheel and are powered by two to six “sherpas” or “porters”, who guide the equipment over all kinds of terrain. These things can handle some pretty rugged trails!
The Gallant family is planning to borrow the TrailRider for an upcoming camping trip their son Tyler will take with his class – an experience that wouldn’t have been possible without adaptive equipment. On a sunny summer afternoon in Tsútswecw Park, the family took the brand new TrailRider out for a test drive. Tyler was able to get out of his power wheelchair for the day and experience the sights, sounds, and smells of this lush cedar forest and the meandering Adams River along with friends and family. Park rangers Britt and Jenna taught us about local flora and fauna (including poison ivy!) and Tyler participated in an interactive nature game matching paint chips to the stunning array of colours found in nature. Even when the early afternoon temperatures hit the low 30s, Tyler’s sherpas (i.e. his parents) kept smiling, easily maneuvering the TrailRider and making plans for the upcoming class camping trip. To see more of Tyler’s Tsútswecw adventure, check out this video!
Whether you live in the Shuswap or are planning your next trip to the area, the Shuswap TrailRider Adaptive Adventure Society can get you set up with a variety of adaptive equipment to outfit your adventure. If you’re interested in trying out a TrailRider and you’re not in the Shuswap, there may be opportunities near you! TrailRiders and other adaptive outdoor equipment is popping up in provincial parks across the province, including Strathcona Park and Mount Robson Park.
- To find out how the BC Parks Licence Plate Program is changing parks and communities across the province, visit http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/licence-plates/
- BC Parks is committed to continuing to improve the accessibility of our facilities and parks. Learn more about BC Parks’ universal access programs, Watch this video
- More information on BC Parks rangers trying out TrailRiders in Mount Robson Park, Check out this blog