Vancouver Island TrailRider Program
Editor's note: The TrailRider vehicle was conceived in the early 1990's by Sam Sullivan and Paul Cermak to allow Sam, a tetraplegic, access back into the wilderness he once loved to explore. Since then it has been redesigned multiple times for maximum enjoyment for the rider and the "sherpas". More importantly it has been sold worldwide to help allow mobility challenged people to explore or re-acquaint themselves into areas closed off to them due to access. Caroline Tansley is the TrailRider Program Coordinator for the Vancouver Island Section of the ACC. Caroline has graciously taken time to answer a few questions about the TrailRider Program.
What is the history of the TrailRider program and its development?
Gerry Graham and his wife Harriet (also an ACC/VI Member) were introduced to the TrailRider through RIV (Recreation Integration Victoria) in 2002, in the course of a three-day hiking and camping trip with people with disabilities, in Strathcona Park. Four years later Gerry founded a TrailRider Program in Victoria, working jointly with RIV and the ACC/VI Section. Our first official outing was held in mid-May, 2006, in Mount Douglas Park. Over the course of the next few years Gerry enlisted over 40 Sherpas into the program, and acted as Trip Leader on over 30 TrailRider outings in local and regional parks.
Fellow ACC/VI member (and TrailRider Sherpa) Jeff Ward took over leadership of the program from Gerry in the late 2000s, and ran the program for approximately four years, before ACC/VI Member Catrin Brown assumed responsibility for the program on an interim basis. During her tenure, Catrin enlisted the support of a number of students from Pearson College (where she teaches) to act as Sherpas. To this day, a number of TrailRider outings involving Pearson College students are organised each year.
For the last several years the TrailRider program has been very successfully run by longstanding ACC/VI Member (and TrailRider Sherpa as well) Caroline Tansley, with regular outings organized on a year-round basis, involving several different "clients". Caroline has been ably assisted in her efforts over the years by her husband and fellow Sherpa, ACC/VI Member Peter Lushpay, as well as a small (and steadily growing) team of dedicated Sherpas.
What led the Vancouver Island ACC to purchase the TrailRider?
Originally, the ACC/VI Section TrailRider program had access to RIV's TrailRider, which had been donated to RIV by Pippa Blake following her successful TrailRider expedition to Everest Base Camp (RIV’s TrailRider is available to be borrowed by the public). Subsequently, the ACC/VI executive decided to purchase our own TrailRider unit. With the help of a substantial grant from the section, a matching grant from the Saanich Foundation, as well as generous donations from ACC/VI members and others, a nearly-new TrailRider unit was purchased in the late 2000s. This unit is still in use by the program.
Who did you purchase the TrailRider from?
The purchase of the Section's TrailRider was facilitated by the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society (BCMOS) in Vancouver. BCMOS, along with Sam Sullivan, were the original inventors of the TrailRider. The TrailRider units themselves (of which there are now hundreds of units spread all over North America) were manufactured by a local company in the Vancouver area.
Shortly after its purchase by the Section, the TrailRider unit was substantially modified by CanAssist at the University of Victoria, free of charge.
When did you first start Coordinating this program?
I started volunteering in 2009 and coordinating in August 2014.
What made you interested in the TrailRider Program?
I was a climbing partner of Sam Sullivan’s partner Lynn when I was living in Vancouver (and he was mayor). I attended an accessibility day at the climbing gym in Vancouver. They had people in TrailRiders actually climbing the wall. It was amazing. When I moved back to Victoria I attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival. The ACC/VI had the TrailRider on display and I signed up to volunteer.
Does it require much maintenance?
Not at all. We’ve had to replace the tire once. The brakes need maintenance just like bicycle brakes do.
How do people find out about the TrailRider Program??
Mostly word of mouth, friends of friends, the ACCVI Bushwhacker Newsletter has an ad, we have a Facebook group and try to be active on social media. The Vancouver Island Section hosts the Banff Mountain Film Festival every year. We set up the TrailRider and recruit there. That is how I became involved in the Alpine Club’s TrailRider program.
How often do you go out in a year?
I try to organize an outing once a month. Slightly more in the summer. We have had six outings so far in 2016 plus two outings put on by Pearson College.
Tentatively BC Parks and the Strathcona Park Institute will be putting on an accessibility day. They have done quite a bit of trail work to make some accessible. If this happens we might have several TrailRiders participating.
RIV and Power to Be also have TrailRiders and we have begun collaborating with those organizations as well.
How many Riders do you have?
We have seven clients.
How large of a base of volunteers do you have?
I have approximately 40 people who have expressed interest in volunteering on my mailing list and 20 of those come out with us regularly.
Also, a very important part of our program includes collaboration with the students of Pearson College (Part of United World Colleges). Community service is a big component of their time at the college and their care and enthusiasm extends our capacity greatly. They lead several outings a year and also join ACC outings from time to time. They are a joy to have on outings.
Join the ACC today
To join the Vancouver Island Section and the TrailRider Program, check out their website below or just join right now! Check out the other 22 regional sections across Canada and join the one that suits you best. Or become a member for the other awesome benefits such as our national level trips, discounted hut nights, affordable guide books and maps, etc. Need we say more?
Great people, great opportunities all lead to great memories. How could you say no?
Want more information? Check these links out.