Friday, November 27, 2009

Minnesota nature center to add accessible vehicle for visitors

From the Austin Daily Herald in Minnesota:

The Friends of the Hormel Nature Center tentatively approved the nature center's plan to buy a new access vehicle to be used to transport senior citizens, wheelchair-users and people with trouble walking around the center.

"The big thing is it's just a great opportunity in the sense of making it easier for all people to access the nature center," said Larry Dolphin, director of the nature center.

The vehicle offers people an opportunity to see parts of the center they're often not able to see.

The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board still needs to approve the purchase of $8,900 vehicle at their next monthly board meeting.

The nature center has a gas operated access vehicle bought in 1985, but the new vehicle will provide new and more frequent opportunities.

The old vehicle's manual transmission makes it more difficult to drive, so only staff members operated the vehicle, Dolphin said.

The vehicle opens up more opportunities, as Dolphin plans for the vehicle to be operated by trained volunteers along with staff. Groups of about three to five people wishing to use the trail will be able to reserve a time for to be driven around the center.

"It will be a nice addition for those who have trouble getting beyond our buildings," Dolphin said.

Volunteers will be trained in how to operate the vehicle, and they'll be trained on information pertaining to the nature center.

Dolphin said the electric vehicle will be very similar to a golf cart and will hold five passengers and a driver.

The vehicle will not operate during the winter.

Along with being more difficult to drive, the old vehicle doesn't ride as smoothly as the new vehicle will, Dolphin said.

A new vehicle will provide a smoother, more comfortable riding experience, he said. The old vehicle will still be used, but only for occasional moving equipment, Dolphin said.

If approved by the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Board, the nature center could purchase the vehicle this fall.

The vehicle will cost about $8,900 and will be purchased using money raised through the Thanksgiving Feast and membership dollars.