Sunday, November 25, 2018

Who is looking at this blog?

From time to time I looked at where the people come from who read the words that I write. Not unsurprisingly they come from many, many different countries but which countries exactly is surprising.

Aside from wondering where Unknown Region is (maybe it's lots of different regions)
the country Canada, where they were invented, is behind Russia and barely ahead of Ukraine.

What I wonder do Ukrainians and Russians find so fascinating about my blog?

I think the answer is that they see someone they might find they are able to hack into by making comments with links in, that if you follow them, will do nasty things to your computer.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ya, boo, sucks!

The day, in 2013, when I couldn't go anywhere
because it was only Rachel, Sam and me.
I have been asked by  John Kenwright's replacement to post some new details for getting in touch with the Sherpa volunteer program at the Grampians or in the Dandenongs.

The details, which I have yet to post because of some technical problems, include a dramatic addition - the idea of a Statewide Sherpa Volunteer Coordinator. A single person who would coordinate and collate Sherpa requests from around the world.

That is precisely what I suggested, back then, in this post. I look forward to watching this roll out.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Come and Try day in the Dandenong Ranges

The beautiful backwoods
Come along and try the TrailRider All Terrain Wheelchair in one of Victoria’s unique
parks and natural environments, the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Where: Grants Picnic Ground, 70 Monbulk Road, Kallista
When: Thursday 29th November 2018, 10am – 2pm
You are invited to trial a TrailRider All Terrain Wheelchair to explore selected walking trails in the beautiful
Sherbrooke forest.  Due to their unique design, these chairs enable visitors with mobility limitations to access
park trails. Parks Victoria’s trained volunteer Sherpas will be available on the day to assist you with the use of
the chair on your walk.
Please register for this day on Eventbrite
For more information

Guest post (and farewell!) from John Kenwright

At the back right in this
group is John, Ros at the
front. David Roberts are
the back left. Megan (?)
at the back left. Me, as
ever (!) in the middle but
surrounded by love.
Mystery woman - for me
at the front
It is a real honour to be asked by David to do a guest post.  I first met David and his wife Ros in early 2011 after I had been working for a year or so in a new role at Parks Victoria to help make parks more accessible for visitors with disabilities. 

David had first contacted our Grampians National park enquiring whether Parks Victoria could acquire a TrailRider chair for the park. The Ranger in Charge at the time, David Roberts, forwarded David Stratton’s email to me for follow up. This is how the TrailRider program in Parks Victoria began.

In 2011 TrailRider chairs were not available in Australia. Parks Victoria were eventually able to track down the manufacturer in Canada and import two chairs for trialling in our parks. 

The chairs proved to be ideal for park conditions and had a range of seating adjustment features were suitable for park visitors of different abilities and sizes. Feedback from visitors using the chairs was so positive that Parks Victoria acquired additional TrailRider chairs for other parks.  

Visitors had told Parks Victoria that they wanted these chairs in or near parks to make it easy to access the chairs and explore nearby trails. This was difficult for many of our parks as our park rangers were out in the field most of the time and did not have the capacity to manage these chairs. This is where local governments came in. Parks Victoria developed partnerships with local governments for the management of the chairs, and they assisted Parks Victoria through their local tourism visitor information centres. 

A number of visitors conveyed to Parks Victoria that they wanted to use a TrailRider chair but they did not have enough fit friends or family members to operate the chair on trails. In response to this need, Parks Victoria established the Sherpa Volunteer Program in the Grampians National Park in 2014. Visitors could not only book a TrailRider chair to use at the park but could also book volunteer chair operators (referred to as Sherpas) to take them out on the trails. Due to the success of this program, the Sherpa volunteer program was expanded to the Dandenong Ranges National Park in 2018. 

After having TrailRiders available for visitors in selected parks for several years, Parks Victoria looked at how the chairs could be made easier to operate for use on steeper and/or longer trails. In partnership with Melbourne wheelchair equipment company Mobility Plus, Parks Victoria developed the first electric motor version of the TrailRider chair. This addition made it less physically demanding to operate the chairs and meant that fewer chair operators (Sherpas) were needed to explore trails. It also meant that TrailRider chairs could now be used on many narrow walking trails as the front and rear chair operators only needed to walk in single file, rather than having two plus operators walking side by side pulling and pushing the chair.

In 2017, Parks Victoria developed a TrailRider advisory sign classification system for motorised TrailRider users. This informed visitors of the level of trail difficulty and recommended number of TrailRider Sherpas required. It was a challenging project to develop the TrailRider trail grading system and data from over 40 TrailRider trails in six national parks were used to develop the trail assessment criteria. A TrailRider trail assessment grading tool has now been produced which can be applied to any walking trail to ascertain trail suitability for TrailRider chairs and grade the level of trail difficulty.

Parks Victoria now has twelve TrailRider chairs available for visitors across Victoria and half of these are motorised. In recent years, TrailRider chairs have been acquired by park managers in other states/territories of Australia and also by some local governments. It is pleasing to know that park visitors can now borrow TrailRider chairs in selected parks around Australia. 

The TrailRider program has been one of many projects undertaken by Parks Victoria to enable visitors with significant mobility limitations to be able to connect with nature and experience the health and wellbeing benefits. The program has meant that many visitors who require wheelchairs can now get out to wild places in nature and share these experiences with their friends and family.

After working at Parks Victoria and being heavily involved in the TrailRider program for eight years, I am now moving on from Parks Victoria. It has been an amazing journey and I have met many interesting people along the way. David Stratton and his wife Ros Hart have been truly amazing and played an integral role in the establishment of the TrailRider program in parks managed by Parks Victoria. David and I have become good friends over the years and I will continue to look forward to reading TrailRider stories on his blog. 

John Kenwright