Wheelchair accessible van at Grandfather Mountain
Thursday, April 18, 2024

Wheelchair-Accessible Van Helps More People Explore Grandfather Mountain Nature park and other museums invest COVID-19 funds to improve access, facilities, and educational programming

Linville, NC
Apr 18, 2024

Grandfather Mountain is welcoming more people to its Mile High Swinging Bridge thanks to the purchase of two vehicles that can accommodate visitors in wheelchairs, or those with other mobility challenges.

The vehicles include a shuttle that can transport up to 14 people and two wheelchairs, which allows private groups or school groups to travel the entire mountain together. This new resource means some mountain-wide events have also opened to wheelchair users for the first time, such as the upcoming Grandfather Glows. A new UTV, capable of traveling over rough terrain, also improves access to behind-the-scenes experiences.

“This is not just a place for people who can go on a rugged hike,” says John Caveny, Grandfather Mountain’s Director of Conservation and Education. “We hope by having these new opportunities that we can serve people of all abilities.”

State’s Investment Lifts Barriers

Grandfather Mountain experienced record visitation after the COVID-19 pandemic began, which further highlighted the importance of lifting barriers. In 2022, it was one of 55 museums and nature parks to receive a special grant from the North Carolina Science Museums Grant Program, funded by a state allocation of federal American Rescue Plan funds. Grandfather Mountain received $144,439, which contributed to the purchase of the accessible shuttle and UTV in 2023. Nearly a year later, the park wants to raise awareness about the vehicles so more people can visit.

“Because of COVID, people realized the outdoors were hugely important in their lives,” says Margaret Thiele, Grandfather Mountain’s Vice President of Development. “We are just incredibly grateful for the support, and for the State of North Carolina to recognize the need.”

The grants were administered by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, with administrative support and oversight from the North Carolina Pandemic Recovery Office (NCPRO). The American Rescue Plan was passed by Congress in 2021 to help state and local governments address the negative impacts of COVID-19 and improve economic resilience.

Read NCPRO’s full article or watch the video to learn more about this grant and its impact.

B-roll, photos, and media interviews available

Media can download b-roll and photos here. The article can also be reproduced online. Please credit the North Carolina Pandemic Recovery Office.

For interviews or questions about Grandfather Mountain’s new accessible vehicles, contact Landis Taylor at Landis@Grandfather.com. Questions about NCPRO or the state’s pandemic recovery funds can be sent to Jessie.Holmes@osbm.nc.gov.