Accessibility is front and center for the Wehr Nature Center Healthy County Challenge!
April 16, 2022 | Topics: Events
By Eddee Daniel
I for one never knew there was such a thing as an all-terrain wheelchair! Not only were several of these remarkable mobility devices being displayed—and used—at Wehr Nature Center on Saturday but a celebrity was also on hand who demonstrated what an important—and fun—device it can be! Wisconsin native John Boie (above and below) recently returned from Tokyo where he earned a gold-medal on the US Paralympic basketball team. He was invited to be the special guest for the second installment of the Milwaukee Healthy County Challenge being sponsored throughout this spring by County Executive David Crowley, Milwaukee County Parks, the Parks Foundation, and The Ability Center.
The initiative encourages getting outside and using the parks for both our mental and physical health—which, of course, totally aligns with the mission of this project, A Wealth of Nature! The emphasis here is on everyone being able to get outside—equity and inclusion. Wehr Nature Center prides itself on being the most accessible nature destination in the Milwaukee County Parks, and the proof of that assertion was in full display at this event. Motorized all-terrain wheel chairs were provided by Access Ability Wisconsin and non-motorized ones by The Ability Center.
Damian Buchman, the Executive Director of The Ability Center, was on hand to demonstrate the chairs. In a follow-up email, he had this to say about the event:
“What an extraordinary day! As The Ability Center ventures further into the community, we’re delighted to see the ever increasing amount of accessibility and inclusion. The Wehr Nature center aims to be the most accessible venue for access to nature in southeast Wisconsin — they are well on their way, already having gone above and beyond “compliance” and diving deep into inclusion and opportunity. Get up, get out, play, and join us this spring for County Executive Crowley’s Healthy County Challenge.”
The county executive is clearly walking the talk. He and his entourage were among the many participants who were visiting Wehr Nature Center for the first time.
“After the end of the morning,” said Carly Hintz, Director of Wehr Nature Center, “they assured me they would be back to share the place with their families, friends, or just to enjoy.”
While accessibility was front and center, there were plenty of activities for all visitors, young and old. These included the “Big Sit,” a bird-in-place activity that required no previous birding experience; the animal exploratory room inside the Center; and sensory hikes guided by a park naturalist and volunteers, which highlighted seasonal sightings.
In an email, Hintz reported on the success of the event. More than sixty people attended, one fourth of whom were at Wehr for the first time; over 100 miles were logged on the Wehr trails; and more than a dozen people tried out the all-terrain wheelchairs and adaptive trail chairs. I’m sorry to say I was so busy trying to document it all that I missed the opportunity to try one myself!
According to Hintz, “A local gentleman shared that ‘this is the most accessible venue he has been to in the Milwaukee area.’ I asked him to clarify if he meant “nature venue” and he said, no. He was so impressed and delighted to be able to participate in 100% of the activities and access everything showcased and more that he plans to bring everyone who visits to Wehr as a premier destination in the area.”
While the wheelchairs were on loan for the day, Hintz says that the Center plans to have one available on long-term basis soon.
Wehr Nature Center is just part of Milwaukee County’s largest park, Whitnall Park. For more information go to our Find-a-Park page.
Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks and curator of The Natural Realm. Milwaukee County Parks Department is a project partner of A Wealth of Nature. The featured photo at the top is of John Boie on the “Woodland Trail” at Wehr Nature Center.