YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. The nations oldest national park has long offered volume-controlled public phones and sign language interpreters for its ranger programs.
Even its newspaper, Yellowstone Today, is available in a Braille edition for those who need it.
But until recently, Yellowstone National Park lacked an overall trail guide for visitors who use wheelchairs.
That all changed last year when the park published its first edition of Accessibility in Yellowstone: A Guide for Visitors who use Wheelchairs.
Produced by the parks interpretation division, the newly improved booklet breaks the park down into eight zones that include attractions in the Mammoth, Norris, Madison and Old Faithful areas, among others.
Accessibility in the park is a top priority in terms of visitor experience and the design of our facilities, park spokesman Dan Hottle said.
Yellowstone was established as a national park in 1872, and while crews work to maintain and improve the parks network of boardwalks whenever funding allows, wheelchair accessibility remains difficult in some places.
When considering an improvement project, such as that taking place at the Norris Geyser Basin, the park must look at a variety of factors that include terrain, aesthetics, natural resources and environmental and cultural factors.
Our architects strive to alter the landscape as little as possible when making additions or relocating visitor features to best preserve the natural landscape, Hottle said. There are going to remain areas that will simply yet unfortunately only be accessible to those who can reach them by foot.
But the park is working to improve wheelchair access to other areas within the park, including Biscuit Basin, which may be wheelchair-accessible by the end of the summer, the booklet says.
Hottle said the park also plans to improve turnouts at Obsidian Cliff, the Calcite Springs Overlook and areas around Canyon Rim Drive. Doing so, he said, will help those who use wheelchairs get a better view of the parks attractions.
If we can improve an overlook area or a trail, where someone can get out of their vehicle and get as close to the railing as everyone else, thats our goal, Hottle said.
The largest accessibility project under way in the park is taking place at Norris Geyser Basin. Crews are building a ramp that will run from the head of the Norris Basin Trail past Steamboat Geyser to the back basin area.
When the ramp is complete, Hottle said, crews will remove the existing stairs and rehab the old trail. They will also look at improving accessibility around the old Norris Museum, connecting it with a ramp into the Porcelain Basin.
Our staff had known for a long time that Norris and its back basin was one of least accessible attractions in the park, Hottle said. This work will take at least the rest of the year and maybe into the spring. It may end up being a two-year project.