Wheelchair user in a field.

Lime Hollow Nature Center Is Making Cortland’s Forests More Accessible for Wheelchair Users

Lime Hollow Nature Center is the second nature center in New York State that provides an Action TrackChair for wheelchair users, which was released this summer. The battery-powered TrackChair offers guests the chance to explore portions of the center’s 600 acres that were formerly inaccessible.

Bringing Nature to Everyone

The TrekChair at Lime Hollow.
Photo Credit: Ilya Shmulenson.

In addition to the Action TrackChair giving wheelchair users access to difficult-to-navigate trails within Lime Hollow’s 600 acres of land, visitors can also use the TrackChair to arrive at Art Meadow, one of the center’s most popular trails. Art Meadow offers visitors the chance to see and interact with sculptures created by various artists.

The TrackChair’s arrival at Lime Hollow Nature Center is thanks to JM Murray’s donation. JM Murray is a private, not-for-profit organization that equips people with disabilities with vocational and habilitation training. The organization is based in Cortland and provides services to more than 700 individuals and families across New York State.

“With this gift, individuals with mobility challenges will be able to navigate the trails on their own, unassisted,” says Ernie Dodge, the president and CEO of JM Murray. “It’s challenging enough for individuals dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. It’s nearly impossible to navigate uneven and rough trails and it always requires a great deal of manual effort and support from others. Not anymore!”

Community Impact

TrekChair at Lime Hollow.
Photo Credit: Ilya Shmulenson.

Mark Wheatley and Teri Thorington are Community Support Professionals at Racker who bring people with disabilities to Lime Hollow multiple times per week. They were among the first people to test the TrackChair before Lime Hollow made it available to the public.

They say, “Our individuals who use wheelchairs now have the opportunity to go further into nature to explore the peace and serenity that most have never had the opportunity to do! We are able to explore more trails with ease, and the chair allows our individuals to move around independently.” 

Before the TrackChair arrived at Lime Hollow, people with disabilities only had access to the short Accessible Trail and areas where a companion was strong enough to push them through otherwise inaccessible trails.

Looking to the Future

The TrackChair’s arrival at Lime Hollow Nature Center this summer is part of the center’s multi-year Trails for All initiative. “Since our inception in 1993, the Lime Hollow Nature Center was envisioned as ‘a place where
ALL can wander, wonder, play, and learn,” says Ilya Shmulenson, executive director of the Lime
Hollow Nature Center.

In addition to the TrackChair, which allows wheelchair users to power through heartier trails, Lime Hollow will be expanding its accessible Trail for All from one-quarter to three miles over the next two years. The nature center will also repair and widen existing bridges and repair the accessible observation deck overlooking Gracie Pond.

Cornell University’s Design Connect program worked with Lime Hollow to identify these priorities in making their facilities more accessible for wheelchair users. The nature center has already received funding from several partners, and their fundraising efforts are ongoing for the approximately $100,000 project.

Exploring Lime Hollow by TrackChair

Boy in a TrekChair at Lime Hollow.
Photo Credit: Ilya Shmulenson.

If you or someone you know would like to use Lime Hollow Nature Center’s TrackChair, you can make a reservation online at least 24 hours before your arrival. There’s no cost to use the TrackChair.

For safety reasons, Lime Hollow requires wheelchair users to use their TrackChair with a companion. However, the TrackChair has a self-control option, allowing people with disabilities the freedom to meander deep into Lime Hollow’s forests and fields independently.

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