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CampAbility-Considering ADA Camping In the New Jersey Pines

New Jersey needs more ADA amenities for camping in its state parks and forests.

February 15, 2023


Hello Access Nature advocates! Spring is still several weeks away but I wanted to foster ideas of warmer weather and outdoor recreation. I’d like to inform all the folks in the Access Nature Nation of the possibilities of including camping in the realm of accessibility to nature.

For this blog post – I’m highlighting a story that was recently presented to me. The source is a YouTube video that was posted in 2018. The topic being discussed is a program that was developed in Oregon, entitled CampAbility. The film sheds light on the barriers many people within the disabled community – in particular, those with spinal cord injuries – face with mobility, outdoor adventures, and camping. Its emphasis was the opportunities and benefits society gains from having inclusive and accessible nature sites. It also touches on ways of reducing or removing the barriers that these folks encounter when going on excursions. A great deal of preparation needs to be considered for these individuals – more so than the average able-bodied individual.

Projects like this are great opportunities for community building, networking, and being near like-minded individuals. This then lends to sharing experiences, learning from each other, and working through ways to advance inclusiveness and accessibility in outdoor recreation, outdoor programs, and events.

The initiative was launched in partnership with the Oregon Health and Outdoors Initiative, the Oregon Spinal Cord Injury Connection, Adventures Without Limits, state organizations, the Oregon Parks and Rec Department, Oregon State Parks Foundation, and Health Share of Oregon.

Wheelchair and adaptive tent, courtesy of CAPEAble Adventures – CAPEAble offers organized adaptive recreation activities in the Cape Code area of Massachusetts.
Wheelchair and adaptive tent, courtesy of CAPEAble Adventures – CAPEAble offers organized adaptive recreation activities in the Cape Code area of Massachusetts.

In the program ten participants camped and kayaked in Milo McIver State Park in Oregon, sharing their experiences of outdoor adventures with a disability. Many of the participants were avid outdoorsmen prior to their injuries and this was a chance for them to rekindle their enjoyment of the outdoors. Yet, for some, this was a first-time experience accessing nature in this immersive way. As a member of the program pointed out – he gains a ‘truly visceral experience’ when he is outside in a natural setting. This statement truly encapsulates what we would like to accomplish in our initiative – the ability for individuals to have the same experiences.  

It is exceptionally exciting to see when individuals have an “aha” moment that then develops and produces something that can have a really constructive and encouraging impact on a section of society that is underrepresented in outdoor recreation.

I am curious to know if anybody in the Access Nature Nation has experience or interest in accessible camping. Is there someone active in the community who knows good camping sites with accessible recreation and facilities? If you have information on ADA camping, please fill out our form Making Nature More Accessible Survey so we may upload the information to our database and interactive map.

I am aware of a limited amount of sites that have ADA amenities within New Jersey, for tent camping. In addition, there are also a few sites that offer mobile camper and cabin sites that are accessible. But for those who want a more immersive, traditional sense of camping, there are slim pickings.

With considerable planning and collaboration, I’d be drawn to see if there is any interest in the Access Nature community to develop a similar program that could then lead to larger plans to provide ADA services for camping. For our access nature initiative, I am looking at all the different aspects of outdoor recreation and ways to make them all-inclusive and accessible to whoever would like to participate in them.

It would be great to add inclusiveness and accessibility opportunities within the camping realm of outdoor recreation here in New Jersey. Ready for your camping adventure? Visible or not, if you have a disability, you can still enjoy being out in nature.

If you have any knowledge and interest in this topic, please reach out to me at sean@pinelandsallliance.org.

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