Access the Outdoors

In the October 10, 2000 issue of Access Press, Dennis Stauffer reported on a new DNR Web Directory for People […]

In the October 10, 2000 issue of Access Press, Dennis Stauffer reported on a new DNR Web Directory for People with Disabilities.  Recently, DNR has expanded the page, featuring new information about accessible trails and waterways near Rochester and throughout the state.  Larry Nelson, regional director of DNR, organized the webpage project and reemphasized to AP that DNR wants people with disabilities not only to know about the page at www.dnr.state.mn.us , but, even more, they want people of all abilities to enjoy the accessible wilderness of Minnesota.  This article serves as a little guide for seaching through the webpage–a handy tool in arranging an outdoor vacation this spring.

Like with any site, a person can surf themselves in circles clicking through the options. Jonathan Leslie, a member of Capable Partners and an integral developer of the website, gave some of the best advice for scanning: “Just browse and have fun.  Go to an area, click and search.” Before you go online with the DNR, you may want to write a list of your priorities for some time away—location, geography, and accessibility., for example, could be a few.  Here are some more ideas which could help in exploring the accessible DNR site:

1)       Once the DNR page appears on your screen, find the well-known blue wheelchair symbol; it opens the doorway to accessible Minnesota.

2)       If you scroll down and click on that button, a page called “Open the Outdoors” appears, with a photograph of a family on an accessible fishing pier. This page provides general guidelines for accessible natural resources, including some important notes of caution like “the degrees of accessiblity vary from site to site,” and “DNR staff may not always be at a site to respond to emergency situations.” It concludes with the reminder that  “an individual is the best judge of her or his own ability.”

3)    On the left side of the “Open the Outdoors” screen, DNR runs a complete list of links: State Parks; State Trails; Wildlife Management Areas; State Forests; Fishing Information; Hunting Information;  Applications and Permit Forms; and Other Outdoor Organizations.

4) From this panel, the choice is up to you. If you want to go to an accessible State Park, for example, you would click on the “State Parks” link from the list to the left of the “Open the Outdoors” page.

5) The “State Parks” page has a few options. One of the most useful for trip-planning is a link on this page titled “Accessible Features” (This link appears in the “State Forests” and “Wildlife Management Areas” pages, too).  If you choose this link, you will open a PDF file with a list of the State Parks and complete information on their accessibility features like campsites, hiking trails, lodging and restrooms.  From looking at this list, a person can determine whether or not a site would meet their accessibility needs for a trip.

6)       Once you find a site that, on the chart at least, sounds good, you can close the PDF file and go to the DNR search icon that you’ll find at the top of the page between the “Home” and “Events” buttons. 

7)       If you type in the name of the State Park — “Crow Wing” for example — and select it, DNR will conduct a search and bring up a list of “Crow Wing” sites.

8)       If you click on the one that says “Crow Wing—Current Conditions,” you will find all of the information you need—a map, geography, and contact phone numbers for more information.

This is just a simple option for you to begin carving your own path through the DNR site.  It is a comprehensive site—complete with permits for people with disabilities, full descriptions of “Interesting Accessible Highlights” like Mystery Cave and Gooseberry Falls, up-to-date information on traffic, conditions, and events, and links to groups like Wilderness Inquiry, Capable Partners and UFFDA, (the United Federation of Disabled Archers) who are there to help people with disabilities who want to make their own trails through Minnesota’s accessible wilderness.

The accessible portion of the DNR page, www.dnr.state.mn.us, is a community effort.  Leslie commended DNR for voluntarily taking up the project: “This is not a funded mandate. The DNR people are doing this on their own with extra time.  It is the product of people who are concerned and care for people who are physically challenged.  I hope the DNR site will help people get enthusiasm back and overcome the hurdle of thinking they can’t use the outdoors” because, as Mike Passo, a DNR site contributor from  Wilderness Inquiry insists, “the opportunity to recreate in the outdoors is such an integral part of everybody’s life.”

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