Island wheelchair user hits the trail for a good cause

Two northwest wheelchair users are hitting the trails at Mount Rainier National Park on Monday, July 31 and they’re inviting other manual and power wheelchair users to join them.

Ian Mackay, of Port Angeles, and Marsha Cutting, of Bainbridge Island, are embarking on a wheelchair hiking trip on several paved trails in the Paradise area of Mount Rainier to bring awareness to the need for more accessible trails.

Cutting is the chairwoman of the Kitsap County Accessible Communities Advisory Committee and organizes a wheelchair hiking group on Bainbridge Island. She said one of her biggest frustrations is trails that are “mostly accessible, except for one or two obstacles that could easily be fixed.”

The other aggravation, she said, is the short length of most trails that are designed to be wheelchair accessible.

“It’s like going out for a nice five-course dinner and discovering once you’ve traveled a ways to get there, you only get to have the appetizer,” she said.

Last summer, Mackay traveled from the San Juan Islands to Portland, Oregon in his power wheelchair to bring attention to the need for more trails.

“So many of us with extreme mobility impairments end up being stuck indoors and watching TV all day,” he said. “We don’t have to let a disability limit what we do.”

Before the bicycle accident that led to his using a wheelchair, Mackay said, “I was a biology student, I spent a lot of time outdoors [and] I was really into cycling. To get out there on the Olympic Discovery Trail after the accident and hear the birds singing, and meet other people that are just out cruising around, was where I found my solace and started to enjoy being out again, enjoy living.”

MacKay and Cutting have started a Ride Rainier Facebook page to encourage wheelchair users to join them.

Those who can’t make it in person are encouraged to send a picture of themselves in their chairs along with their name, hometown and a short statement about what makes it difficult for them to access trails.