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.