The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Tuesday, 23 April 2024 07:04

Smokies accessibility program opens doors to the outdoors for everyone

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Adaptive program participants in GSMNPAdaptive program participants in Great Smoky Mountains National Park during a backcountry trip. The park plans to expand its program this year with multiple outings throughout America’s most-visited national park.  National Park Service

Adaptive ranger-led programs include trail, lake and camping outings

GATLINBURG — The National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with Catalyst Sports, Knox County, Kampgrounds of America Foundation and Friends of the Smokies, will expand adaptive ranger-led programs in 2024. Using assistive technology, the ranger-led programs are designed for visitors of all abilities and their families to learn about the natural and cultural history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.       

“We strive to create equal and accessible experiences for visitors of all abilities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “And we are thrilled to work with our partners to expand the adaptive programs and offer off-road wheelchairs.”  

Expanding on the adaptive programs offered in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time in 2023, this year’s lineup includes three opportunities for trail outings, two for biking, one for kayaking and one overnight camping trip:  
— June 8-9: Hike Cooper Road Trail and Camp Overnight at Backcountry Campsite No. 1
— June 22: Kayaking from Fontana Marina
— July 13: Hazel Creek Hike and Boat Tour
— Sept. 7: Hike Bradley Fork Trail
— Sept. 14: Mountain Bike at Deep Creek Trail
— Sept. 15: Mountain Bike at Forge Creek Road
— Oct. 5: Hike Middle Prong Trail or Little River Trail 

Register for the programs and find more information at Catalyst Sports, a non-profit organization that provides outdoor adventures for people with physical disabilities. Registration is required to ensure equipment and volunteers are available for the programs. Registered participants are welcome to bring their own adaptive equipment. Information about volunteering can be found below.  

“These programs connect individuals with nature, promoting environmental awareness and stewardship. Expanding offerings and experiences will enhance inclusion for all,” said Eric Gray, CEO of Catalyst Sports.  

Outside of the scheduled programs, four GRIT Freedom Chairs, a type of off-road wheelchair, will be available for visitors to check out and use on park trails evaluated for the equipment, like the Little River trails or Deep Creek trails.

The programs and GRIT Freedom Chairs were made possible through the generous support of Friends of the Smokies, Kampgrounds of America Foundation and National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).  

Serving as the philanthropic partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Friends of the Smokies raises money to support special park projects, including accessibility initiatives, education opportunities, historic preservation and wildlife management. 

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Last modified on Tuesday, 18 June 2024 11:33

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