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Parks of Possibility: Creating New Memories at Radnor Lake State Park

Will and Candie Ferrell Discuss the Transformative Power of Community at Radnor Lake State Park’s All-Terrain Wheelchair Unveiling Event


Candie Ferrell and her son Will both foster a deep connection with nature, engaging in recreational opportunities and serving as stewards of their community. Their shared love for the Tennessee state parks system is not unique. The Ferrells are like any other family with a passion for the outdoors, except that their experiences differ from most.

Will was born with severe quadriplegia cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for his daily mobility needs. But this doesn’t stop him from achieving major milestones like walking across his high school graduation stage, working on computers and hard drives, and joining his mom on nature hikes.

Radnor Lake State Park is a longtime favorite for the family. Candie made her first memory there when she was just 15 years old and now, she loves sharing experiences and making new memories with her son, Will.

‘A Day at Disney:’ Radnor Lake State Park Event

On August 29th, 2023, Will and Candie joined the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy, Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to unveil the latest fleet of all-terrain wheelchairs at Radnor Lake State Park.

Will tested out one of the wheelchairs, made possible by a grant from TVA to the Conservancy, allowing him to to experience Radnor Lake in ways he wasn’t able to before. Candie likened her son’s experience to a day at Disney World.

“You know that feeling you get at Disney World when people are excited to see you and treat you like a VIP? That was the feeling at Radnor,” said Candie Ferrell. “Will was going straight to the front, meeting all kinds of people and getting their cards. They even helped transfer him into the chair so he could experience life in a whole different way.”

– Candie Ferrell

All-terrain wheelchairs open access to more trails for visitors with mobility challenges. As Will’s primary caretaker, Candie felt confident that Will was taken care of and prioritized by parks staff, who helped him learn to use and navigate the wheelchair for recreational use.

Empowering Possibility

Candie remembers Steve Ward, Radnor Lake’s Park Manager, highlighting the importance of empowering individuals with disabilities to have their own agency.

“At the Radnor event, I was going to help with the wheelchair when Steve said, ‘Let him see first.’ That was the moment I knew there were people I could trust on site to guide him in a very positive way,” said Candie. “To watch Steve and Will go down that trail beside the lake without me was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ You could hear the angels in heaven singing.”

It is commonly misconceived that people in wheelchairs have limited independence. Will, along with many individuals in similar situations, loves any chance to disprove this belief. On that day in August, both Will and Candie created a memorable experience on the trails.

“One of the beautiful things about the all-terrain wheelchairs is that they allow users the opportunity to operate them independently,” said Steve Ward, Radnor Lake State Park Manager.

“Many of us probably take these moments of independence for granted, but for someone who hasn’t been able to wander down a hiking trail before on their own, doing so at their own direction makes a world of difference. For the first time ever, these automated wheelchairs are designed to provide options and make these opportunities a reality for everyone visiting our state parks and state natural areas.”

Twenty-five years ago, the Ferrells thought placing an electric wheelchair on the park grounds was frowned upon. Now, they know that the staff is happy to go above and beyond to foster a genuine sense of community and support for Will.

“It was like everything stopped when we needed something. Park staff would charge the chair for us and provide transfer assistance. They would accompany Will when needed and keep an eye on the weather. They wanted our experience to be positive and did everything they could to make that happen,” continued Candie.

Sharing the Love

Will’s confidence radiated throughout the event while local news cameras captured the moment, creating an exponential impact for Nashville.

“People at church and everywhere we went said, ‘We saw you on Channel 4!’ or ‘We saw you on Fox!’” said Candie. “It’s what you wish for. The fact that the speakers that day were so passionate about accessibility… I learned so much by listening to them beside the lake.”

Will and Candie’s story underscores the crucial need for park accessibility. All Tennesseans deserve to use state parks as a safe and inclusive environment. The Tennessee State Parks Conservancy works to fund projects that break down barriers and help more of the community experience the beauty and healing power of our parks system.

To learn more about how the Conservancy enhances accessibility, check out https://tnstateparksconservancy.org/enhancing-accessibility/.

For more information on the new all-terrain wheelchair, as well as details on Tennessee State Parks’ current accessibility initiatives at www.tnstateparks.com/about/accessibility.

To help fund more adventure, exploration and wonder, support the Conservancy by clicking the donate button below.

All-Terrain Wheelchair, Radnor Lake State Park