Specialized wheelchairs to bring more opportunity for open space exploration in Colorado Springs

Jess Hazel / KRCC
Cristine Byrne tests one of the new Trackchairs on a trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space in Colorado Springs on October 24, 2023.

Folks with mobility impairments will soon have the option to use Trackchairs to more easily explore trails in Colorado Springs’ Red Rock Canyon open space. 

The chairs are designed to navigate terrain not suited for a regular wheelchair. They’re more stable and use tank-like treads instead of wheels to move over obstacles even on steep slopes. 

Felicia Barnhart is a recreation therapist for the city and works with the parks department. She said the Trackchairs give people with disabilities more freedom. 

“You can go over a lot of rocks,” Barnhart said. “It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth. It’s really, it’s like a little mini tank you can take out on the trail and just be able to see places you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.” 

Barnhart said the chairs allow people to access the outdoor recreation opportunities Colorado Springs is known for. 

“People with disabilities have the same wants that we do,” Barnhart said. “We want to get out. We want to experience it (nature) and we want to be able to touch the trees and smell and see all the colors that are coming out.” 

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife grant as well as funding from the city’s office of accessibility paid for the two chairs. People can register to use a trackchair for free starting in spring, 2024. 

Red Rock Canyon Open Space will debut the chairs, but the city said if there’s enough demand and the program runs smoothly there could be plans to expand to other parks.

El Paso County started a similar accessibility project called the Trail Access Program in 2022 that uses off-road mobility power scooters to help people enjoy trails at Bear Creek Park and Fountain Creek.

The most recent study on tourism in the Pikes Peak region found 35 percent of visitors to the area last year had someone with a disability traveling with them. That’s about 15 percent higher than the national average.

Related stories