Reeve Spotlight: New York State Parks

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on January 12, 2016 # Quality of Life, Travel

This summer, individuals living with paralysis will now have better access to the beautiful beaches, campgrounds, and miles of trails at three New York State Parks thanks to the addition of three Hippocampe wheelchairs. “The need for beach and all-terrain wheelchairs was recognized through patron requests and staff realization of the impact the service would have on our guests,” said Bonnie Ward, Regional Safety Manager for the New York State (NYS) Park Central Region.

Last year, NYS Parks received a $12,111 Quality of Life grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to purchase three Hippocampe wheelchairs for use at Green Lakes State Park in Fayetteville, Delta Lake State Park in Rome, and Gilbert Lake State Park near Oneonta.

“We were honored to be chosen by the Reeve Foundation as a Quality of Life Grant recipient,” said Ward. “By providing use of these wheelchairs to patrons with limited ambulatory abilities, we can enhance their park experience by giving them the ability to escape and explore our parks with their families and friends.”

Most standard wheelchairs cannot navigate the sandy or difficult terrain of state park beaches and trails. At the suggestion of occupational therapists, Ward special ordered the custom-made wheelchairs to help support NYS Park’s beach accessibility initiative to enable park visitors a safe means to get to and into the water. When the wheelchairs were received in late August, park staff quickly posted information on the website and hung fliers in park offices, bath houses and camping areas to announce their availability.

“I can’t begin to tell you how many people commented on how happy they are to see the wheelchairs and how much they are looking forward to either using it themselves, or sharing the fact that we now have it with their loved ones,” said Laura Tully, Park Manager at Green Lakes State Park. “I truly can’t wait to see it in action. I think it’s going to be well used and much appreciated.”

Available for use free of charge on a first come, first serve basis, the wheelchairs are anticipated to be used by at least 100 individuals in the first season alone.

“I am so proud to offer these loaner wheelchairs that will allow visitors to access our beach and trails,” said Tully. “For several years we’ve had roll-out beach mats that would allow people using wheelchairs the opportunity to get to the water, but they were almost never used. I would often see visitors with limited mobility come to the beach and just enjoy being outside. Now they can easily get in the water, cool off on a hot day and enjoy it.”

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation oversees 180 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by 62 million people annually. With the mission to provide safe and enjoyable recreational and interpretive opportunities for all visitors, the park system hopes to add the wheelchairs to additional parks in the future.

"State Parks is committed to working to ensure our facilities, programs, and services are accessible and usable by visitors of all abilities," State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said. "This innovative equipment will help provide visitors with more independence, enjoyment of nature and aquatic activities and increased community engagement for entire families at no cost. We are excited to offer this service and are grateful to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for its generous support."

The award to NYS was one of 192 grants awarded by the Reeve Foundation to nonprofit organizations nationwide that provide more opportunities, access, and daily quality of life for individuals living with paralysis, their families, and caregivers in 2015. Conceived by the late Dana Reeve, the program has awarded over 2,500 grants totaling over $18.9 million since 1999.

"The Reeve Foundation is committed to supporting programs and resources that foster independent living, improved health and community engagement," said Donna Valente, Director, Quality of Life Grants, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. "The grantees are instrumental to our work as we strive to serve the community with invaluable resources and programs to enhance their quality of life."