Will County forest preserves expand accessibility on trails with all-terrain wheelchair

Kim Kosmatka of Mokena was the first person to test the new GRIT Freedom Chair at the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon. The wheelchair is available for public use at no cost.

Mokena resident Kim Kosmatka was the first person to test the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s newly acquired GRIT Freedom Chair, an all-terrain wheelchair available for public use at no cost intended to help those with disabilities better explore natural surface trails at McKinley Woods, according to a news release from the forest preserve district.

During the test, Kosmatka rolled over grass, roots and mud while admiring the spring wildflowers. Having suffered from multiple sclerosis for more than 40 years, the 65-year-old told forest preserve district officials that it is one thing to have an accessible site, but it is another thing to offer people the independence to move around in nature on their own, according to the release.

“I think it’s wonderful that you have this option,” Kosmatka said in the release. “I can’t access trails with the wheelchair I have now, but in this one, I can. I’ve never been in this chair before, and it’s thrilling. To be this close to the river is awesome, and I did it on my own. It’s neat. It’s definitely a whole new world.”

The chair is the latest in accessibility advancements made by the forest preserve district, which also includes an accessible kayak launch at Lake Chaminwood Preserve in Channahon, an all-persons trail at Four Rivers and National Inclusion Project accreditation also at Four Rivers.

The GRIT Freedom Chair can be checked out at the front desk at the Four Rivers Environmental Educational Center on a first-come, first-served basis any time the visitor center is open, according to the release. Reservations cannot be taken over the phone, but calls in advance to check availability are welcome.

For information on using the chair, visit the FAQ page posted at reconnectwithnature.org.