On Thursday, August 17, a group of seniors looked all set for a trek in the Pheasant Branch Conservancy as they assembled under a mildly sprinkling sky at Middleton’s Orchid Heights Park.
Their mode of transport was nothing like you'd expect -- A 350-pound (about 159Kgs) all-terrain wheelchair.
Hailing from various locations including their own independent households, Heritage Senior Living, and Middleton’s Brookdale Senior Living, an assemblage of seven sat down in their seats, some wrapped up in plastic bags reused as ponchos.
Led by naturalist Claudia Lewis the participants headed to the Conservancy's bubbling spring, which is roughly a quarter-mile from the park entrance.
A device which will be stored and will be up for grabs for free rentals at Orchid Heights Park was unveiled at the event. Users will have to make a security deposit of $50.
Made by Minnesota-based Action Trackchair, the wheelchair bears a steep price tag of about $12,500, which doesn't encompass additional expenses such as battery changes.
However, Wisconsin-based individuals with disabilities can get them without shelling out a single dime, thanks to Access Ability Wisconsin, which has collaborated with Public Lands Department and Middleton’s Parks in a bid to offer them to people with mobility issues or elderly visitors to the Conservancy.
The durable wheelchair can withstand swampy water and climb over small tree stumps and it comes with scabbards and levers that can carry rifles or cameras for zealous outdoorsmen.
The two batteries can last as long as four to five hours, and it can travel 5mph, which is relatively faster than the regular walking speed.
President of Access Ability Wisconsin, Monica Kamal helped lead the alliance with the Public Lands Department and the Parks after a couple of years of discussion.
While going around in their wheelchairs in a considerably long line in the grass-grown pathway of the conservancy, the seniors stopped to marvel at small sunflowers while some pointed out an adjoining small lake.
Before letting out a great whoop of excitement, 89-year-old Shirley Haasa said, “I gotta pay attention and look at all the birds and bees." Haasa added that she is an outdoor person and admitted that she loves it.
Meanwhile, Richard Marleau, 89, deemed the machine "magnificent," despite the intermittent hefty vibrations while handling the chair on the bumpy ground. Aside from him, there were a few others participants who had not seen the Conservancy up to now.
This was one of the events hosted by the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy in order to make the region more accessible to the senior group and eliminate barriers that restrict them from delving into the area. (Image Credit: Tim Swenson/YouTube)