Seniors want more wilderness access

  Regarding Erik Schultz’s column, "Wheelchairs and Wilderness Can Co-exist" (HCN, 12/12/05: Wheelchairs and wilderness can coexist): Erik and Congressman Simpson are to be congratulated for the progress they have made in opening a wilderness area to handicapped persons — be it ever so small.

I look from another perspective — that of aging senior citizens. We have had to forgo the pleasures of backpacking, exploring, fishing in seldom-disturbed lakes and streams, climbing crags and snow-capped peaks, etc. Our numbers are growing, and we have the power to influence the decisions made about public lands. Many of us do not need wheelchair paths yet, but we could use some access to those vast and scenic areas, now locked up for a very small number of able-bodied and willing outdoor lovers.

Our national park system provides good access to much natural and scenic beauty. On Mount Rainier, one can drive the loop, and there are numerous trails of varying difficulty. Am I suggesting that roads be sliced through the wilderness canyons and valleys of parks like the Olympics? Hardly, though I shall never again see the beauty of the Olympics’ interior.

Our national parks are becoming more and more crowded and overused as population swells. The impact on existing facilities and trails is taking a heavy toll. More areas must be made available to our ever-increasing population.

We have pushed up the priority list of public expenditures to include the cost of making our buildings accessible. Now, how about the rest of the country?

Donald W. Rea
Albany, Oregon

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