Tennessee State Parks, the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) today unveiled a new all-terrain wheelchair available at Radnor Lake State Park.
“Tennessee State Parks are treasured, cherished places that are kept in the public trust for all Tennesseans,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Greer Tidwell. “We have been and will continue to improve our parks’ accessibility, so our parks are welcoming and inviting for everyone to enjoy the great outdoors. We are grateful to TVA and the Conservancy for supporting this progress and supporting our parks.”
The wheelchair was made possible through a $136,000 grant from TVA that will also fund an all-terrain wheelchair at Tims Ford State Park in Franklin County, an accessible kayak launch at David Crockett State Park in Lawrence County, and transportation costs for students at Title 1 schools to visit Tennessee State Parks as part of the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy’s Kids in Parks program.
“TVA has been a supporter of Tennessee State Parks since its creation in 1937, and we are renewing that commitment with this grant to the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy, which will help make our parks accessible to all,” said TVA Regional Vice President Justin Maierhofer. “As TVA celebrates its 90th anniversary, we are committed to strengthening our partnership with Tennessee State Parks and the Conservancy.”
The Tennessee State Parks Conservancy, the recipient of the grant, is a 501c3 charitable organization established to help raise additional funding in support of Tennessee’s state parks.
“We are thrilled to receive funding from TVA as we work to create the most accessible state park system in the nation,” said Tennessee State Parks Conservancy Executive Director Gina Hancock. “This grant allows us to provide Tennesseans who may not have been previously able to explore our parks the unique opportunity to do so. The response to our accessibility programs is heartwarming. It really is something special.”
Gov. Bill Lee, in his 2023 State of the State Address, stated the goal of having the “most accessible park system in the nation”. Tennessee State Parks is one of only seven state park systems in the country that provides free entry to visitors. The system now offers all-terrain wheelchairs at four state parks – Radnor Lake State Park in Davidson County, Tims Ford State Park in Franklin County, Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County, and Henry Horton State Park in Marshall County. Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly recently appropriated over $1.2 million for additional all-terrain wheelchairs to be placed in the state parks system, along with $1.6 million to make improvements on trail accessibility. Various parks across the state provide people with disabilities the opportunity for meaningful outdoor experiences in our state parks, including accessible trails, colorblind viewers, accessible canoe/kayak launches, and more.
Tennessee State Parks also announced today that citizens can view specific Tennessee State Parks’ current accessibility options at https://tnstateparks.com/about/accessibility.
Tennessee State Parks will update the page when new offerings are made available. All-terrain wheelchairs are available free of charge. Visitors should contact the park in advance to help ensure availability.
Tennessee State Parks has been in consultation with the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) in its ongoing efforts to make state parks more accessible. DIDD Commissioner Brad Turner, who oversees nearly 2,000 employees and services and supports for approximately 25,000 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has already taken advantage of the all-terrain wheelchair offerings with his daughter.
“My family was able to enjoy the trails at Radnor Lake for the very first time together because of the all-terrain wheelchair,” said Turner. “I’m proud of the commitment Tennessee State Parks has made to prioritize inclusion and give all Tennesseans the opportunity to experience the incredible natural beauty within our state’s borders.”
A short video showcasing Radnor Lake State Park’s all-terrain wheelchair can be viewed here.