Written by Peter Axelson for Grand Canyon Hikers, November 27, 2023
Just two weeks ago on the 13th and 14th of November, I returned to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with seven of my team mates who worked together in the late 1990’s to design and plan our dream for an accessible trail and greenway system along the south and north rims of the Grand Canyon. The idea was to enable people of all abilities, that did not necessarily have the skills, ability or desire to hike into the canyon, to have a way to hike along the rim of the canyon to experience this amazing place without their cars to get everywhere they needed to go. The staff at the canyon mostly thought this was a great idea as well. Most of our team members had never seen these trails completed until we returned together. It was exciting to see so many people of all abilities being able to walk and roll along the south rim of the canyon.
Back in 1997 I needed my off-road hiking chair, with other team members pushing and pulling me thru the brush, to figure out where the alignment of the trails should go. It was challenging work. Two weeks ago, I wanted to see where I could go in my everyday wheelchair by myself on the completed trails. Most of the paved sections of the trails and greenways are less than a 5% slope and where there are steeper sections there are level landings at intervals that are now specified in the ABA accessibility guidelines. These new standards also took about 20 years to complete and I was honored to help write them. Rolling along miles of accessible trail along the south rim meeting so many wonderful people from around the world was a blessing to me. Sharing contacts, stories and seeing other wheelchair users on the trail allowed me to see that the new accessibility guidelines for outdoor recreation are working. People now seem to be planning their vacations to come to the south rim now that everyone can experience the joy of moving thru time together along the rim of this amazing canyon.
We now hope to create a sort of educational documentary about how the rim trails at the Grand Canyon were created and how this might happen at other parks around our country. If anyone saw me in my wheelchair or talked to any other of my team mates on these two days we would like to hear your impressions about these trails along the rim of the Grand Canyon. If anyone knows the Hispanic or Latino multi-generational family that took this sunset photo of me down below on Tuesday the 14th, please get back to me. I think some of them were from New York and other places. I am a Veteran as a result of a training accident at the AF Academy and work at a wheelchair test lab, in Minden NV.
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