Getting outside into nature has become more accessible and inclusive at Lime Hollow Nature Center with the unveiling of the Action Trackchair©, an all-terrain wheelchair designed to make trails accessible for people with mobility challenges. Lime Hollow became only the second nature center in New York State to offer this "wheelchair," bridging the gap between accessibility and nature.
The battery-powered chair, donated by JM Murray Foundation, has tracks similar to a tank allowing it to easily traverse uneven terrain and take people deep onto the trails. The disabled community will now have the opportunity to safely explore 600 acres of forests, fields, streams and unique geological features at the center.
Lime Hollow was always envisioned as "a place where all can wander, wonder, play and learn," so there was no hesitation when staff was approached by JM Murray to house the wheelchair.
"When JM Murray reached out about donating the Action Trackchair, we were beyond thrilled," said Ilya Shmulenson, Executive Director of the Lime Hollow Nature Center. "Many people in our community and those traveling through the area are unable to have deep immersive nature experiences because of mobility challenges. The JM Murray Foundation’s generosity has made Lime Hollow’s vision a reality.“
“We posted a story on our social media feed about a disabled self-advocate, Aimee Copeland Mercier from Georgia, who was using the Action Trackchair to improve her mobility,“ said Ernie Dodge, JM Murray President and CEO. “The JM Murray Foundation’s golf classic was coming up, and this seemed like the perfect gift. Lime Hollow is in our backyard and many of the individuals we serve as well as our employees, enjoy visiting the nature center. We reached out to them to see if they were interested. It wasn’t a tough sell.“
The Action TrackChair© is only one piece of the plan. Over the next two years, Lime Hollow's efforts in making nature accessible to all will continue as part of their "Trails for All" campaign. Updates will include regrading, rerouting and resurfacing specific trails through the famed Art Meadow to expand the Accessible Trail from 1/4 mile to three miles. Additionally, several rest points with seating will be added, existing bridges will be repaired and widened, the accessible observation deck overlooking Gracie Pond will be repaired, directional signage will be installed and maps will be upgraded.
These priorities were identified in collaboration with Cornell University’s Design Connect program and the outdoor recreation internship program at SUNY Cortland through community engagement, trail assessment and reviewing trail accessibility best practices. Lime Hollow has secured funding for these initiatives from Plan First Technologies, the Central NY Community Foundation and the Siegle Foundation. The total cost of these upgrades will be about $100,000 and fundraising efforts are ongoing.
"We are thrilled for Lime Hollow Nature Center and JM Murray, and commend their efforts to make Cortland'd outdoor spaces more accessible to all," said Michelle Enright, Executive Director of the Cortland County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Access to nature is so important for our well-being. Everyone deserves to experience the beautiful outdoors and the addition of the Trackchair, along with Lime Hollow's continued improvements, will bring visitors and locals of all abilities closer to nature."
The Action TrackChair© will be available, free of charge, to anyone who needs it beginning August 1, 2023. The nature center intends to offer extended weekend hours starting in September so that the chair is available seven days a week to the public. Reservations can be made online at www.limehollow.org or by calling 607-662-4632.
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