News Release

Great Smoky Mountains National Park and partners to offer adaptive programs

ranger and visitors GRIT off-road wheelchairs

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News Release Date: July 7, 2023

Contact: Emily Davis, 865-440-0066

GATLINBURG, Tenn.— Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in partnership with Knox County, Catalyst Sports, and Friends of the Smokies, will make public lands more accessible for visitors of all abilities by offering three adaptive programs this summer. Rangers and volunteers will lead one biking and two hiking programs using off-road wheelchairs and adaptive mountain bikes on three trails evaluated for adaptive equipment.

“Programs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park play a vital role in fostering an adaptive community, as they offer an opportunity for individuals to connect with and understand the natural world around them,” said Catalyst Sports CEO Eric Gray. “People can engage in activities that promote environmental awareness and conservation thereby cultivating a deeper sense of stewardship and responsibility for the park’s resources.”

The following programs are designed for visitors of all abilities and their families to learn about the natural and cultural history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
  • Saturday, July 22nd, 2023 (HIKE)—Deep Creek Trail

  • Sunday, August 27, 2023 (BIKE) —Forge Creek Road in Cades Cove

  • Saturday, September 9, 2023 (HIKE)—Little River Trail

Register and find more information at Catalyst Sports, a non-profit organization that provides outdoor adventures for people with physical disabilities. Registration is required to ensure adequate equipment and volunteers are available for the programs. Registered participants are welcome to bring their own adaptive equipment. Information about volunteering can be found below.

When the adaptive program schedule concludes, two GRIT Freedom Chairs, a type of off-road wheelchair, will be available for visitors to check out and use on park trails evaluated for the equipment, like the Deep Creek and Little River trails.

“Adaptive equipment like the GRIT Freedom Chair allows people the ability to move beyond the pavement to explore areas that wouldn’t be possible to access without these valuable mobility devices,” said Knox County ADA Coordinator Carly Pearson.

The programs and two GRIT Freedom Chairs were made possible through a grant from National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), Ensuring Access and Enjoyment for All Visitors through Assistive Technology and Inclusive Programs. The $16,390 grant has major funding support from Toyota Motor North America. 

Would you like to volunteer to help with the adaptive programs? 

Join Park staff for Accessibility and Adaptive Equipment Training on Saturday, July 15, from 10 a.m.- 12 p.m. at Oconaluftee Visitor Center Training Room, near the Cherokee entrance to the park.

Each piece of adaptive equipment requires assistance from two volunteers. The National Park Service will rely on volunteers for the events and will offer disability etiquette and equipment training with Knox County and Catalyst Sports for those individuals who help with the programs.

To register to volunteer contact Katherine Corrigan at e-mail us. Volunteer training is needed before helping with programs in the park. This volunteer position requires moderate to high fitness levels.

Last updated: July 13, 2023

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