Making Nature Accessible to All
By: Kyle Grammatica
One of the great things about nature is that it’s for everyone. You can enjoy the happy singing of songbirds and the low croaks of frogs no matter who you are. Florida’s radiant sun shines on everyone equally. However, some of Florida’s wildlife areas are difficult to access for mobility impaired people. To change this, the Foundation has funded numerous projects to improve the accessibility of wildlife areas for wheelchair-bound people.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) goal is to manage fish and wildlife populations for their long-term well-being and the benefit of the people. With over 5.8 million acres of wildlife preserved, the wildlife management area system is a shining example of the great work FWC does. But if mobility impaired people lack access to this abundance of wildlife, can it truly be for the benefit of all people? FWC thought not, so new projects were created to address this problem. The Foundation partnered with FWC on several of these projects, implementing new services, and buying equipment that have given wheelchair bound people greatly improved access to several wildlife areas.
The Wheels in Nature project’s goal was to secure adaptive equipment that would enable people in wheelchairs to access many outdoor venues, such as lakes and trails, without having to be separated from their family, friends, or caregiver. To achieve this goal, a custom-made wheelchair-inclusive golf cart shuttle and a flatbed trailer were purchased this past year. The flatbed trailer allows the wheelchair shuttle to be transported to various locations around the state. The Foundation provided over $18,000 for this project with funds collected from our “deer” license plate. Both the custom-built shuttle and trailer were purchased from local businesses.
Wheels in Nature has been serving people and families with disabilities for over a year. The service is used several times a month to this day. Wheels in Nature currently serves visitors at two state parks, four camp and retreat centers, several community events in rural settings, and four municipal sites on lakes. The State of Florida is one of the only locations that provides a service like this. The Foundation has funded other projects designed to give wheelchair-bound people better access to wildlife areas. Heavy duty wheelchairs called Trackchairs have been purchased several years ago to allow for easier movement through the rough terrain in wildlife management areas around the state.
We hope to continue to fund projects like these, so that everyone can have equal access to Florida’s parks and wildlife management areas. To show your support, please purchase our “deer” plate from your local tax collector’s office or donate here. With some of the best wildlife in the world, it would be a shame for anyone to miss out on experiencing natural Florida.