Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, United Spinal Association and Ian’s Ride came together to celebrate the launch of Mackay’s wheelchair trek on the Great American, with a focus on giving people of all abilities better access to the great outdoors

WASHINGTON, September 21, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Ian’s Ride, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and United Spinal Association (USA) met with members and supporters on the National Mall today to mark the start of Ian Mackay’s journey on the Great American Rail Trail ® to celebrate from Washington, DC, to Columbus, Ohio. Mackay, founder of Ian’s Ride and advocate for accessibility, will travel 475 miles in a power wheelchair on the easternmost portion of the Great American to raise awareness of the importance and need for greater access to the great outdoors for those with limited mobility and other disabilities .

Supporters join Ian's Ride, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and United Spinal Association on September 21, 2022 at the National Mall in Washington, DC to cheer for Ian Mackay as he embarks on a 475-mile journey in his power wheelchair Great American Rail Trail.  Photo by Anthony Le, courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

“Community is the answer, together we are stronger and nature is the best medicine.” -Ian Mackay

“Early on in my recovery from my injury, access to nature brought me joy when I couldn’t find it anywhere else. The Great American Rail Trail is a great example of infrastructure designed for people of all abilities, and I’m really looking forward to getting my bikes on the easternmost 475 miles of it,” said Mackay. “My philosophy is community is the answer , together we are stronger and nature is the best medicine.”

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The event and Mackay’s Ride will demonstrate the importance of accessible outdoor infrastructure and the need for strategic funding that helps connect trails and create safe places for people of all abilities to be active outdoors.

“We’re thrilled to cheer on Ian as he sets out along the Great American Rail-Trail®,” said Kevin Belanger, RTC’s Great American Rail-Trail project manager. “The transnational Great American Rail Trail will provide direct access to trails and nature for 50 million people within 50 miles of the trail spanning 3,700 miles between Washington, DC and Washington State. We hope it serves as an inspiration for what’s possible when we prioritize accessibility in creating and connecting outdoor infrastructure.”

Mackay’s ride on the Great American Rail Trail comes as Congress pursues multiple priorities. RTC is committed to funding the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program, which would provide targeted investments to connect hiking trails and active transportation infrastructure and create seamless walking, cycling and wheelchair routes that are separated from vehicular traffic. United Spinal is pushing for legislation to repeal Medicare’s “household rule,” which restricts Medicare coverage of wheelchairs and wheelchair components that are designed to function outside of a person’s home, including outdoor areas.

“We’re incredibly proud of Ian for highlighting outdoor accessibility, a topic that so many of our members are passionate about,” said Steve Lieberman, director of advocacy and policy at the United Spinal Association. “Our Outdoor Access Working Group has brought together wheelchair users across the country to advocate for greater accessibility in built and natural infrastructure, seek greater availability and better maintenance of adaptive devices to enjoy the great outdoors, and continue to promote outdoor recreational opportunities our community of wheelchair users in the United States. Ian keeps raising the bar for all of us.”

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Joining Mackay and Belanger at the event were Monica Wiley, DC Chapter Advocacy Coordinator, United Spinal Association; Jeremy Buzzell, National Accessibility Program Team Coordinator, National Park Service; and Juliette Rizzo, RTC board member, disability advocate and former Ms. Wheelchair America. Dozens of supporters came out to celebrate Mackay’s ride, and many rode him in wheelchairs and on bicycles from the National Mall to the C&O Canal Towpath Trailhead in Georgetown. Mackay invites members of the public and other advocates to join him for portions of the ride as he travels his route.

After a spinal cord injury in a 2008 bicycle accident left Mackay paralyzed, the avid outdoors lover relies on a power wheelchair and accessible trails to stay connected to the outdoors and his cycling community. Through his nonprofit Ian’s Ride, he draws attention to accessible trails across the country. Mackay recently broke a Guinness World Record for longest distancemore than 184 milesin 24 hours on a mouth-controlled electric wheelchair. Its current 12-day route follows the Great American Rail-Trail®, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s flagship project, which connects the first nationwide 3,700-mile multi-purpose trail between Washington, DC and Washington State – Mackay’s home state.

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Learn more about Ian’s Ride at the east end of the Great American Rail Trail:

Ian’s ride is a non-profit organization founded by Ian Mackay that works to create more accessible pathways for people with disabilities across the country.

Founded in 1946 by paralyzed veterans, United Spinal is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) membership organization dedicated to helping people living with spinal cord injuries and diseases (SCI/D), including veterans, lead successful and fulfilling lives .

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is the nation’s largest trail organization with a more than 1 million-strong grassroots community dedicated to building a nation connected by trails and redesigning public spaces to create safe routes for all to walk, ride a bike and be outdoors. Connect to RTC at and @railstotrails Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about the Great American Rail Trail at and track its progress Facebook and Instagram @greatamericanrailtrail.

CONTACT: Patricia Brooks for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, [email protected]202.351.1757 Tom Scott for United Spinal Association, [email protected]718.803.3782 ext. 7223 Teena Woodward for Ian’s ride, [email protected], 805.403. 2511

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SOURCE Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

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