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Call for Volunteers to Accompany Track Chair Participants

UPDATE: If you would like to become a track chair volunteer, please go here to sign up as a track chair volunteer and contact Kathy Cole to learn more: trackchair@friendsofsleepingbear.org 


In the past, the closest Jeanne Esch got to the beach was the parking lot.

As Chair of the Accessibility Committee for Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, Jeanne has had a long-time love of our sandy beaches surrounded by towering dunes. Unfortunately, as a wheelchair user, access to some of her favorite areas was a challenge.

All that changed last summer, when Jeanne got the opportunity to ‘test drive’ a track chair and the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes successfully raised the needed funds for a Track Chair Program in the park – the first of its kind in a National Park!

Now Jeanne can get closer than ever to her beloved shoreline. “On a personal level, as a chair user – having that access on the beach to be able to go out to the shoreline to sit and enjoy the water instead of [being] out in the parking lot watching from afar has been huge,” said Esch. “I can’t stop smiling, I’m so excited about [this new program].”

What is a Track Chair?

A track chair is a personal mobility system. A power wheelchair with tracks rather than wheels, that allows the user to go through sand, climb steeper hills, and move through other surfaces typically found on a trail. It allows users to experience areas of Sleeping Bear Dunes not otherwise accessible to an individual with mobility challenges.

Here’s How the Track Chair Program Works and How You can Participate!

Imagine accompanying someone with mobility challenges as they ‘hike’ a trail or cruise the beach. Being a Track Chair Program volunteer will surely be an incredibly rewarding experience. Read on to learn how you can participate.

The track chair will be available at no charge to park visitors. There will be a reservation system online at FriendsofSleepingBear.org beginning in the Spring of 2019. When the chair is reserved, volunteers will be notified. You may sign up to volunteer on specific days of the week – on a weekly basis or monthly basis.

What are Track Chair Program Volunteers’ Responsibilities?

  1. The track chair will be available on a reservation basis.
  2. When a reservation is received, the volunteer will be contacted to meet the person who will be using the track chair and responsible for familiarizing them with the use of the chair.
  3. The volunteer will accompany the track chair user and his/her party on the hike. The current designated track chair trail is the Bay View Trail.
  4. Following the hike, you will check in the track chair and return it to it’s designated location.

How to Become a Track Chair Program Volunteer

  1. To become a volunteer, indicate your interest by filling out our Volunteer Registration form and selecting “Accessibility Volunteer” in the list of volunteer jobs.
  2. You will be contacted and required to be trained in the use of the track chair. This includes:
    a. Removing the track chair from the trailer.
    b. How to operate the track chair and adjust the safety and comfort features.
    c. Experience driving the track chair.
    d. Checking for obvious damage to track chair before checking it out and when checking it in after use.
  3. Loading the track chair from the trailer and charging it.
  4. How to train the track chair user in the use of the chair.

All Track Chair Program Volunteers are required to be trained!

Time Commitment

Our new trailer that transports the track chair.

Volunteers may choose days, time of day, they are available to volunteer. The volunteers will be on a “on call” system. If there is a request for use of the track chair during the time you have chosen to volunteer, you will be contacted.

Volunteers should plan on 4 hours per volunteer session. This allows for preparing the track chair, familiarizing the track chair user, hiking with the track chair user, checking the track chair upon return, returning it to the trailer.

Other Information

Volunteers must be able to hike the Bay View Trail.

Volunteers will NOT lift or position the track chair user.

Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes plans to launch the Track Chair Program this spring. If you’re interested in this great volunteer opportunity, please fill out the Volunteer Registration form and select “Accessibility Volunteer” in the list of volunteer jobs or contact us at info@friendsofsleepingbear.org.

Echo Valley Mt Bike Trail

The Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes has begun raising funds to support an Environmental Assessment to evaluate the impacts of an proposed Mountain Bike trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail

The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is open from Empire (Voice Road) to Glen Arbor (Forest Haven Road). The trail is 10 miles long and the section from Empire to the Dune Climb provides some challenging hills, while the section from the Dune Climb to Glen Arbor offers an easier ride.

The next section from Glen Arbor (Crystal River Input) to Port Oneida Road is open!

Bay to Bay Trail Planning

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is studying the possibility of a new water trail and backpacking trail that would run the length of the National Lakeshore from Platte Bay to Good Harbor Bay. This proposed Bay to Bay Trail would offer backcountry camping for multi-day wilderness experiences.


With over 100 miles of designated trails on the mainland, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers a wide variety of hiking experiences and activity levels. Our Trail Patrollers walk their favorite trail at least once a month picking up trash and removing obstacles like down branches from the trail. They report large problems to the Park Roads and Trails group. Pick your favorite trail and join us.


The Platte and Crystal Rivers flow through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Thousands of people enjoy canoeing, kayaking, and tubing down these rivers during the summer months. Our River Rangers float the rivers on a regular basis to pick up trash and report safety issues. If you enjoy the river, why not help out?



Beach Clean-upHelp us keep our Lake Michigan beaches beautiful and safe. Adopt your favorite beach and walk your beach at least once a month picking up trash and reporting on beach conditions. It’s a great way to enjoy the beach – with a purpose.

More information: Adopt-A-Beach program

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