Access National Parks!


AccessParks_AshleyBy Ashley Lyn Olson,

My father was killed in the same car accident that paralyzed me when I was fourteen. He was a great man and a wonderful father. He was also a ranger and taught me a lot about nature. It was his dream to see all the US National Parks but he only made it to a handful of them.

In honor of my father and the 25th Anniversary of the American’s with Disabilities Act, is launching the 501C3 Access to Parks Project this May. The mission of the project is to make it easier for people with limited mobility to plan a trip to a National park based on their accessibility needs. We will also help each park selected update their access information (and maybe suggest some improvement). To better serve visitors with accessibility needs, we will document the length and grade of trails, trail surfaces, the locations of accessible restrooms and much more. Such details address the basic needs and concerns of people with limited mobility, thereby enabling them to make informed decisions about what parks to visit.

Fifteen National Parks have been selected to catapult the Access to Parks Project into action, although this is merely the beginning. In May, 2015, will embark on a two-week journey from Atlanta, GA, to Cleveland, OH, to visit, evaluate and promote access at three National Parks: Mammoth Caves, Shenandoah and Cuyahoga Valley; some state parks are also planned for review along the route.

Nearly everyone enjoys spending time in the outdoors. Nature revives and grounds us all. I can vividly recall camping and day-trips in the outdoors with my family when I was a child (before the accident) and the joys of exploring. From those days forward, the thrill of traveling has always been a part of me. I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents gave me a very precious gift, a profound respect and admiration for nature.

John Muir, a conservationist who dedicated his life to the preservation of these national spaces once said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” I believe that having access to the outdoors is more than just another opportunity; it’s like air itself – a necessity for our growth as people and for our love of nature.

Please support the Access to Parks Project. Your tax-deductible donation will help fund our transportation, food and accommodations. To donate or become a sponsor, go to For more information, please contact Ashley Olson, CEO of, at

[Access to Parks Project is a 501C3, which is made possible by’s fiscal sponsor, Access Northern California]

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