Parkville, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) on Oct. 7 accepted the donation of three track chairs designed to help people with mobility challenges enjoy the outdoors. Private groups, cities and individuals donated money to match a grant from Platte County for the $42,000 purchase. The chairs are based at MDC’s Parma Woods Shooting Range and are available for free for organized events that involve outdoor activities such as hikes, fishing, birding and hunting.
“We worked with people to get the chairs not only to help veterans, but to help anybody who has a mobility problem to use these chairs and get outdoors,” said Don Pratt, provost marshal for AmVets Riders Chapter 181 of Kansas City, a service organization that assists veterans.
The same organizers found funds earlier to purchase another chair, so four are now based at Parma Woods to serve the Kansas City region. MDC maintains the chairs and transports them to special events as part of the Department’s Accessible Outdoors program. There are 14 track chairs in the program in the state. The chairs have rubber tracks rather than wheels and can traverse cross country through woods and fields, climb over small logs and rocks, turn easily and even pass through shallow water. With battery power they run silent. Users steer with a joy stick.
A community partnership with MDC makes the chairs possible, said Nathan Woodland, range manager at Parma Woods.
Platte City barber Ron Pine mentioned to Pratt a program about track chairs to help wounded veterans enjoy the outdoors. Pratt, of Parkville, began looking for donations and partners. After the first chair was donated, he led efforts by AmVets members, the charity group Ride For the Wounded, and others to raise more funds. Individuals donated money and fundraisers were held. Cities such as Platte City and Parkville made donations. The Platte County Parks and Recreation Department provided a $21,000 grant, half the cost of the three new chairs, using funds from the county’s half-cent sales tax for parks that voters approved in 2000 and renewed in 2009.
“This will help anyone with a disability to go hiking, birding or on a hunt with their family or friends,” said Chris Oryshyn, outreach grant coordinator for Platte County parks. “We’re thrilled to be a part of it.”
The chairs are available for use by partners in the program or organized groups holding a special event. For more information or to reserve a track chair, call MDC’s Parma Woods Shooting Range at 816-891-9941. For more information on accessible outdoor opportunities, visit http://mdc.mo.gov.