Anthony Bartl remembers the moment clearly. He was in the Grampians National Park, north-west of Melbourne in Victoria, when he came to a clearing in the forest and found himself taken aback by what he saw.

‘There was this whole family of kangaroos, so there were joeys, their parents, it was just a pretty awesome, awe-inspiring sight. I’d never seen anything like it. The kangaroos just sat there, and they weren’t perturbed by the sight of me being in a TrailRider,’ Anthony said.

After an accident left him a quadriplegic, Anthony’s access to the natural wonders of the Australian bush shrunk. But he credits the TrailRider with giving him some of that access back.

‘[It] takes me back to before the accident. I used to go for longs walks with my family before my accident and it’s just like being back there and among the people again and not feeling excluded cause I’m in a wheelchair,’ he said.

‘You can lift it across riverbeds and [take it to] inhospitable terrain. I love that fact, that you can access a lot more places that are usually inaccessible in a wheelchair’ 

‘You can lift it across riverbeds and [take it to] inhospitable terrain. I love that fact, that you can access a lot more places that are usually inaccessible in a wheelchair.’ 

‘I’m a real lover of the bush and the outdoors so to be able to get more amongst that it was just a wonderful feeling and experience.’

‘It’s just liberating. It’s just a fantastic feeling and sensation.’

Reconnecting with nature

The TrailRiders presence at parks across the country is thanks to the advocacy of one man: David Stratton. David had seen the innovative design in action while holidaying in Canada. When he returned home to Victoria he contacted Parks Victoria immediately.

‘He was the real instigator and motivator,’ said Shauna Jones, Senior Manager of Health & Community Activation at Parks Victoria.

‘He came back to Parks Victoria and said, I’ve seen this fantastic apparatus that allowed me to get out into the mountains and go reconnect with nature in a way that I used to as a boy. And he set about really advocating very strongly to Parks Victoria to consider buying these TrailRiders, a number of them, to try and open up parks to people with mobility issues.’

In short, David’s persistence paid off and Parks Victoria purchased a number of TrailRiders.

Accessible parks the way of the future

Today, Shauna says the TrailRiders are in ‘pretty much constant use’ with a steady and upward trajectory of usage.

‘We have them down on the Mornington Peninsula and in the Grampians and up in the Dandenongs. We have one in Listerfield Park, which is a metropolitan park out in southeast Melbourne. We have one down at Wilson’s Prom. So, they are in positions that are in fantastic either locally accessible parks or national or state parks that are actually well used,’ Shauna said.

‘And what we also try to make sure of is that there are other amenities which are going to support the visit so that [includes] disability access toilets, car parking, some of those sorts of things that actually just help the individual and their carer and their families to actually get to the site where they can actually use it.’

In addition to providing the TrailRiders free of charge, Parks Victoria also provide volunteers who are trained to operate the TrailRider. The ‘sherpas’, as they are affectionately known, can assist in manoeuvring the TrailRider throughout the park.

‘Just to give it a go and [don’t] be put off by a new experience. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know what places it could take you and how it will feel’

Give it a go!

Of course, the TrailRider is just one way that Parks Victoria is working to make their parks more accessible. From social scripts for people with sensory disabilities to inclusive playscapes and accessible boat ramps and canoe launchers, accessibility and universal design is something that is a ‘driving mantra’ for the organisation.

‘I would absolutely encourage everyone to give [the TrailRider] a go. And bring friends or family with them so that everybody can join in. Because it’s going to broaden their horizons, going to take them further than just an afternoon at a picnic table in a park. It’s going to get them out in nature, on the trails, like everybody else,’ Shauna said.

Similarly, Anthony encourages people to ‘give it a go’.

‘I’d say to not have any fear and to give it a go even though you might have reservations,’ he said.  

‘Just to give it a go and [don’t] be put off by a new experience. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know what places it could take you and how it will feel,’ Anthony said.

Where you can find TrailRiders

ACT

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Canberra

New South Wales

Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Dorrigo National Park and Kosciuszko National Park

Tasmania

Cradle Mountain Park

Victoria

Buchan Caves Reserve

  • P: (03) 8627 4700

Grampians National Park

  • P: (03) 8427 2058

Dandenong Ranges National Park

  • P: (03) 9755 2888

Wilsons Promontory National Park

  • P: (03) 8427 2122

Colac Otway Shire (Manual TrailRider)

Hepburn Shire (Manual TrailRider)

Loddon Shire (Motorised TrailRider)

Moorabool Shire (Manual TrailRider)

Mt Beauty Visitor Information Centre (Manual TrailRider)

  • P: 1800 111 885

Surf Coast Shire (Manual TrailRider)

Warburton Visitor Information Centre (Motorised TrailRider)

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