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Track chair allows people with disabilities to enjoy state parks in Michigan

Track chair allows people with disabilities to enjoy state parks in Michigan
Track chair allows people with disabilities to enjoy state parks in Michigan 02:45

NORTHVILLE, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - Summer is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy nature. For those with disabilities, there's a fun resource in a few state parks to help you take full advantage of the trails.

Meet Chris Vandervoort. He was born with cerebral palsy but is on a mission to be one with nature.

At a few state parks across Michigan, there is an action-packed mobility track chair available for those with disabilities to give them a chance to get outside.

Alysia Burgio/CBS Detroit

"We started this program in 2018 through a donation with Kali's Cure for Paralysis (nonprofit). They donated five of these action-tracked chairs to five of our state parks," said Michelle O'Kelly, fund developer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

One of those state parks includes Maybury State Park in Northville. There's only one chair available right now, but O'Kelly says they can be rented out for free, and people like Vandervoort can take a guided tour with a volunteer from Friends of Maybury across the park.

"At the moment, we have more track chairs than any other state in the United States," O'Kelly said. 

Alysia Burgio/CBS Detroit

"Every single person that I've done a guided hike with is just elated, and they want to come back again and again, and they're so grateful and thankful to have this program available," said Barb Krizman, a volunteer with Friends of Maybury.

For three years, Doug Luenner, Vandervoort's recreational therapist and volunteer with Friends of Maybury, has been coming to Maybury State Park to use this chair.

"He has issues being able to walk for long periods of time, but he loves the outdoors, so something like this that lets us go out for longer periods of time and go for upwards of several miles around the park," Luenner said. 

He's seen first-hand the joy nature can bring.

Chris Vandervoort speaking with CBS News Detroit Reporter Alysia Burgio. Alysia Burgio/CBS Detroit

"He always says this is one of his favorite things, and he's always hooting and hollering while we're out there," Leunner stated.

BURGIO: "How does it make you feel to be able to have something like this available for you?"

VANDERVOORT: "Excellent. It's the freedom out in the park, and I get to see scenery."

Hundreds of acres to explore, a sense of independence but mostly happiness in its truest form.

"It's a beautiful park, it's a beautiful thing, and I think everyone should try it," Luenner stated.

Alysia Burgio/CBS Detroit

The Michigan DNR says by the end of this year, 14 state parks will have this chair available for use. A reminder that it is free to use.

Maybury State Park also has an instructional video online for those interested in renting out this chair.

The chair is available from May through October. If interested in using, users or their caregivers can call the Maybury State Park office at 248-349-8390 during business hours, which are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The park will reach out to the list of volunteers and see if they can coordinate a day and time. The park will then send out an email confirmation to both the volunteer and the user, and they meet up at the park.

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