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Lack Of Disability Access A Problem For Parks

November 13, 2017 by   - () Leave a Comment

Camp counselor Andrew Sinclair shares a laugh while carrying disabled camper Kelley Handy into North Pond for a swim. Pine Tree Camp offers access to the outdoors for campers with disabilities.

Heidi Conn was an avid outdoorswoman who had hiked New Hampshire’s Presidential Range and many trails in Maine until a series of events six years ago left her paralyzed from the waist down and in need of a wheelchair.

According to the Sun Journal, today, Conn uses a handcycle for outdoor adventures, but her options are limited. She misses the joy of exploring Maine’s state parks and state-owned lands.

“I would love to connect with the earth again,” said Conn, 62, who summers in Turner. “I would just be grateful for a walkway down to the water’s edge. What would it take to spend money on a bit of lumber for a ramp to the ocean so that I could roll down there?”

In many states, officials are helping people with physical disabilities to get outdoors by offering trails, cabins and fishing platforms that are accessible by wheelchair. Some routinely hold events to help those with physical disabilities to kayak, fish or bicycle.

Funding and commitment to provide these amenities and services vary widely from state to state, even in New England.

Maine is not among the leaders, despite promoting itself as a scenic outdoor playground and generating $500 million annually in recreational tourism. Until last year, the state’s budget had never included funds toward improving access at state parks for those with physical disabilities.

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