Track chairs are all-terrain electric wheelchairs that provide guests with mobility challenges the opportunity to visit parts of parks that are not suitable for regular wheelchairs. The sturdy, rugged chairs use tank tracks instead of wheels to allow guests to traverse uneven surfaces and can navigate through snow, water, mud, sand, and other rough terrain.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to explore and enjoy our parks and historic sites,” said David Kelly, director of Missouri State Parks. “Wheelchairs provide important mobility for their users, but they aren’t always able to navigate our trails. But our all-terrain track chairs can.”
Missouri State Parks currently has three track chairs: one at Bryant Creek State Park in Ava, one at Battle of Lexington State Historic Site in Lexington, and one at Elephant Rocks State Park in Belleview. Bennett Spring State Park outside of Lebanon has also applied for a grant to purchase a chair for use within the park.
Using the track chair is free, but reservations must be made at least two days in advance and a friend or family member 18 years or older must go along to help, as park representatives are not available to assist with the transfer to or from the chair.
Chris Fritsche, superintendent of Battle of Lexington State Historic Site, recently had his first guest use the track chair. He said the guest was excited for the opportunity, and Fritsche was happy to be a part of the experience.
“This was the first time he and his wife were able to hold hands while walking a trail or going from place to place because he has always used a manual wheelchair or crutches,” Fritsche said. “The light in his eyes when he saw the Action Trackchair was enough to warm your heart, but the exuberance he had when he came back after using it was even more profound.”
In addition to track chairs, St. Joe, Echo Bluff, and Sam A. Baker state parks have adaptive beach chairs for use in the water. Beach chairs allow wheelchair users, people with special needs, or those who require some assistance the chance to play in the water. The floating chair provides a comfortable ride, along with easy mobility and stability through sand and other rough surfaces.
“By being able to get on the beach and into the water, these beach chairs allow users to experience the sun and sand with their family and friends instead of being limited to paved trails and parking lots,” Kelly said.
To find out how to reserve a track chair, visit mostateparks.com/action-trackchair.
Author: Tisha Holden is the division information officer at Missouri State Parks.