In Linville, North Carolina, Grandfather Mountain is welcoming even more people to its Mile High Swinging Bridge and signature events thanks to the purchase of two ADA-compliant vehicles, made possible by the state’s American Rescue Plan funds.

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 an allocation of federal American Rescue Plan funds in the state budget. 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. The vehicles include a shuttle that can transport up to 14 people, including 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 for smaller groups with other mobility challenges.

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

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