By Meg Kennedy
The word ‘Sherpa’ may evoke images of the chilling, unforgiving extremes of the Himalayas; but a program that creates accessibility for everyone in our local forests and parks is available closer to home.
Sherpa programs run in many of Victoria’s national and state parks, yet you may be surprised to learn that Moorabool Shire has its own ‘TrailRider’ – an all-terrain wheelchair that allows those with physical and mobility issues to access areas that are difficult to get to.
But unfortunately, it’s barely used.
Bev Watson, Rural Access Worker at Moorabool Shire Council, says although Council has had a TrailRider since 2012, “it hasn’t been used much.”
“There have been a number of attempts to attract Sherpas and promote the TrailRider, but not a lot of success,” she said, highlighting that its main user over the years has been Blackwood Special School.
Following the recent opening of the Marveloo in Bacchus Marsh, at which the Trailrider was on display, it is hoped the increase of access facilities for those living with a disability will encourage use of the TrailRider.
“…The biggest thing to try and make sure people are aware of when they use the TrailRider, that they need Sherpas. Then try and create a little bank of volunteers, or a big bank of volunteers would be even better.
“Ideally, what I’d like to do is if we got some Sherpas, we could work with Parks [Victoria] to identify some accessible tracks,” she said.
“It’s such a great resource, and it’s a thing that so many people take for granted…this is a resource that actually provides an opportunity for those people who don’t get that opportunity otherwise.”
Parks Victoria currently run their own Volunteer Program in the Halls Gap/Grampians Region and Dandenong Ranges, and will be holding their own information session on becoming a Sherpa in these areas.
“It’s a really relaxing way to go for a walk, have a chat, get to know them and provide this experience,” said Parks Victoria Halls Gap Community Engagement Ranger Hannah Auld.
Parks Victoria will be holding a Sherpa volunteer information session on Sunday 3 February 2019, which cover TrailRider usage and safety, as well as tracks around the Grampians area.
The session will meet at Brambuk Cultural Centre in Halls Gap and will run from 10am-4pm.
For more information on the Halls Gap information session, contact Hannah Auld on 0498 777 615 or email@example.com.
The Moorabool Shire Council TrailRider can be booked for free at the Bacchus Marsh Lerderderg Library.
For more information on Moorabool Shire Council’s TrailRider, call 5366 7100 or visit https://www.moorabool.vic.gov.au/node/1415.