Smokies all-terrain wheelchair rules clarified
This is the time of year when many people start hitting the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Greg Tipton has especially been looking forward to it after investing in an all-terrain motorized wheelchair with tank-like tracks.
"I bought it in February because it can go over most terrain, on the beach, and a lot of trails in the Smokies," said Tipton. "I was born with spina bifida, but walked for a long time. I eventually required some surgery on my spinal cord and that was the end of walking. Before that, I had hiked several of the trails in the Smokies and would kind of like to get back in there and go on the trails."
Park spokesperson Dana Soehn told 10News, "If it is a motorized wheelchair or mobility device that is suitable for use in an indoor pedestrian area, the use of it is allowed by regulation in any pedestrian area across the park including trails."
To put it over-simply, wheelchairs with gas engines are not allowed on the trails. Tipton’s chair is both battery-powered and has rubber tracks that allow it to be used indoors.
"There is a chair made by the same company that is larger and runs on gas. I understand they don't want something up there that's going to tear up the trails, but thankfully mine is within the rules," said Tipton.
The GSMNP public affairs team and the back-country specialists also worked with Tipton to determine which trails would work best with his chair-design. Many of the recommendations included trails that were once roadbeds because they are usually wide with a moderate slope. They are also not typically riddled with obstacles such as foot-logs.
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