Recreation Trails for the Disabled

With help from a $100,000 federal grant, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department will build a recreational trail for people with disabilities at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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Actually there will be two trails around the West Gray Multi-Service Center, one about a quarter of a mile long, the other not quite a hundred yards. Parks Department spokeswoman Estella Espinoza says:

"What we are trying to do is build a trail, a couple of trails, that will allow for the use of all people, but also have some unique features that'll challenge people that have mobility issues, or that might have have vision disabilities."

Metropolitan Multi-Service Center Director Peggy Turner comes to this job with years of experience in working with the disabled, and she says recreational therapy programs like this have enormous value for those who use them, and for those who pay for them.

"I've traveled nationwide and worldwide and I've seen what physical activity can do for people with disabilities, the same thing it does for children and adults without disabilities. The self esteem, the confidence, all those things, prevention, it prevents secondary health conditions that send a person back into the health care system." /?p>

Turner says when they're completed, the adaptive trails at the multi-service center will provide a recreational outlet for the disabled, and allow them to work on improving the physical skills they need and use every day. For example, rehabilitation therapists will teach wheel-chair and hand bike mobility skills, such as driving control, spatial awareness, and back wheel balancing, which is a skill needed for getting over curbs. Turner says keeping people disabilities busy, active and involved is the key.

"I think the long term benefit of helping a person who's had a tragedy in life, to actually introduce something that welcomes them and helps them learn to do things, either re-learn or learn to do things a different way, that their overall quality of life improves. I think it's going to be one more situation, activity, environment that will help improve peoples' lives in the bigger picture."

The $100,000 National Recreation Trails Grant comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation, and is administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It will pay 80 percent of the cost, and the City of Houston will pay the rest and do the actual work of building the trails. Turner hopes the trails can be completed and in use by this time next year. There's more information about it on our website KUHF dot org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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