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Kingsway group listening to Adventures staff during a program at Atstion Red/Blue Trail.

Kingsway group listening to Adventures staff during a program at Atstion Red/Blue Trail.

Access Nature with Pinelands Adventures Adaptive Programs

Access Nature initiative teams up with Pinelands Adventures to make the Pinelands more accessible to those with disabilities.

May 10, 2023


Greetings to all the Access Nature allies! I am sure you can feel Spring is upon us! Birds are chirping, the flora is blooming, honeybees are busy buzzing around collecting their nectar, and we are all eager for outdoor adventures. With the new rugged adaptive mobility equipment that Pinelands Adventures is attaining, we will soon be providing educational eco programs to more of New Jersey’s population.

I am happy to announce that this April, Pinelands Adventures concluded three trial adaptive eco-tour programs in partnership with Kingsway Learning Center. For these programs, our Pinelands Adventures staff took five to six clients from Kingsway and their companions/caregivers on the ADA-nature trails at Atsion Recreation Area and Batsto Historic Village. At these sites, the ADA-nature trails are labeled as the Red/Blue Trail and Red Trail respectively. Both sites are in Wharton State Forest in Burlington County. These locations have accessible marked trails, parking, and restroom facilities. The trails are wide enough and have stabilized surfaces using compacted crushed stone to permit mobility devices such as strollers, wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers to have access.

For more information about accessible trails in the Pinelands click here.

Group photo of Kingsway Learning Center – Atsion Recreation Area

The first program presented was the Pinelands 101 course. The group met at Atsion Recreation Area. This program is an introduction to the New Jersey Pinelands.  The participants learned about the uniqueness of Pineland’s fauna and flora and discussed its unique ecology.

The second program was held at Historic Batsto Village, and combined Pinelands 101 and Industries in the Pines. The group learned about the area’s natural resources and their importance to establishing early European settlements and prosperous local industries like those found at historic Batsto Village.

The third trial program was held at the Atsion Recreation area. This was a Nature Rx program. The group immersed themselves in the forest’s sights, sounds, and smells. This is a euphoric program designed to rekindle our relationship with nature.

We were blessed with fantastic weather on all three occasions, which both staff and guests greatly enjoyed.  In addition, all three groups had a delightful time accessing nature-based recreation and educational programs in places they may not have been able to get to before without the guidance of Pinelands Adventure staff. Pinelands Adventures has been able to provide adaptive mobility equipment to make these programs more accessible.  

These three programs helped us assess how to best use the assistive mobility equipment we acquired. Individuals had the opportunity to test out each mobility device and provide feedback. The participants were asked to fill out surveys on the different pieces of equipment, indicating likes and dislikes, and then discuss these suggestions with the Pinelands Adventures team.

We have determined that our adaptive equipment has great flexibility for the terrain. In addition, this equipment satisfies a diverse set of individuals with differing mobility abilities. Our electric chair accommodates individuals with very low mobility while people with greater mobility and upper body strength can use our Grit Freedom chair. This equipment can also be steered by a companion/caregiver.  

Kingsway group enjoying the Sun during the Nature Rx program.

Moreover, from these trials, Pinelands Adventures has determined and developed plans for safety features to incorporate with the equipment, like safety instructions and contingency plans for staff and participants in the programs.

For me, these developments are truly exciting. This is a great opportunity to connect with and provide remarkable educational and recreational programs to an underserved portion of our community. It makes it possible for the entire family to enjoy the shared mental, physical and educational benefits of nature. This is an extraordinary project to be a part of and I am grateful to be a part of it.

Pinelands Adventures plans on offering programs using this equipment later this season and they hope to acquire additional mobility chairs. Programs will be able to accommodate groups of 5 or 6 individuals in need of mobility assistive chairs along with their companions to help assist them.

Keep a look out for my blog posts as well as the Pinelands Adventures website for when these programs may be available.

For those interested in researching more about these products I have provided the websites below:

Grit – The All-Terrain Wheelchair

Eagle HD Lightweight Foldable Wheelchair

If you have questions or would like to get connected with the Access Nature initiative, please contact me at sean@pinelandsalliance.org.

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