MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — A small group of mostly older summer residents want to help disabled people ride the carriage roads in Acadia National Park on electric-assist tricycles.
“We help people benefit emotionally and spiritually by being able to experience Acadia,” said Art Worster, vice president and treasurer of MDI Wheelers. “It ties in with the accessibility program that Acadia National Park and Friends of Acadia are working so hard on.”
The group has been planning the service and trying it out this summer, taking board members for rides on the carriage roads on their E1 trike, which is the model with the least powerful electric motor and the only one allowed on Acadia’s carriage roads.
Worster said the group has been consulting with Acadia staff, particularly Chief Ranger Therese Picard, on route planning and other logistics.
“She is really marvelous, so nice to work with,” Worster said.
He said sections of some of the carriage roads are too steep for the trikes, but many others are quite level.
“For example, we can go all the way around Eagle Lake very easily. That’s about 6 miles and an hour’s ride, which is about the limit of what we want to do.”
This spring, the IRS granted MDI Wheelers tax-exempt status. Now they plan to solicit donations, acquire another trike and recruit and train volunteers so they can start offering rides to disabled members of the public next summer.
They will need volunteer “pilots” to pedal and steer the trikes and engage with the riders and “safeties” to ride alongside on bicycles and help ensure a safe experience.
According to the MDI Wheelers’ website, “We will need people to help maintain our trikes and equipment, to coordinate volunteers, to schedule rides… We will need help with fundraising, organizing events, updating our social media and website, publishing our newsletter and more.”
The idea for MDI Wheelers evolved from the desire by Ed Wood, who has Parkinson’s disease, to ride his electric trike in Acadia. Then two others, both of whom had had strokes, decided they wanted to ride, and they got electric trikes, too. But none of the three was capable of accessing Acadia on their own.
So, in the summer of 2020, Worster and Dave Edson, who is now president of MDI Wheelers, offered to assist them and ride with them.
“The five of us started riding together every week, three on the handicap or E1 trikes and two of us on regular bikes,” Worster said. “The feedback we got from them was wonderful.
“These guys all live in Tremont and they named our group the Tremonsters. Last year we recruited some other folks to ride with us.”
Now, the plan is to offer free rides in Acadia to disabled people on weekdays next June through September. Reservations will be required.
More information about MDI Wheelers, including how to donate, is on the group’s website, www.mdiwheelers.org.