New rugged wheelchair will help disabled hikers in Alberta

Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey talks with Alberta Parks employee Christian Bagg, who explains to the...

Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey talks with Alberta Parks employee Christian Bagg, who explains to the Park Explorer wheelchair, aimed to help disabled people navigate rough terrain. (Supplied photo)

Shawn Logan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:59 AM ET

CALGARY - Hiking Alberta’s back country just got a bit easier for the disabled.

As part of its Everyone Belongs Outside initiative, Alberta Parks on Saturday unveiled a rugged new wheelchair, dubbed the Park Explorer, that will allow people with limited ability to navigate rough terrain.

Richard Starke, minister for tourism, parks and recreation, said the province’s plan will make Alberta’s vast wilderness areas more accessible.

“This plan offers an exciting vision for Alberta’s provincial parks where people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds are free to enjoy the outdoors,” he said.

The Park Explorer, developed by Alberta Parks staff working with stakeholders and volunteers, will allow the disabled to explore natural treasures that in the past may not have been possible.

Shawna Henderson, Push to Open Nature Ambassador and now a user of the one-of-a-kind Park Explorer, said the innovation has opened new vistas for her and her daughter.

“Being able to participate in nature with my 14-year-old daughter means a lot to me,” she said.

“I am very grateful for opportunities to spend time with her in a fun and relaxed environment.”

The Everyone Belongs Outside plan, which has been crafted to help guide future development of provincial parks, aims to create programs, policies and partnerships to help all Albertans, regardless of what affliction they suffer.

In addition to the physically disabled, the plan also focuses on those with mental disabilities, seniors, youth and new Canadians.

The new initiatives includes programs to teach immigrants about camping, a bus pilot project between Fort McMurray and Gregoire Lake provincial park as well as geocaching and astronomy programs for youth.

Twitter: @SUNShawnLogan