How Morgan’s Wonderland makes outdoor activities accessible to everyone

The spirits behind Morgan’s Wonderland theme park showed how outdoor activities like ziplining and horseback riding will be accessible to campers of all skill levels, as they gave members of the media their first glimpse of the new Morgan’s Wonderland Camp Tuesday.

The $ 34 million, 102-acre wooded property in northeast Bexar County is packed with recreational activities, many of which are accessible for the first time to campers with special needs.

“Morgan’s Wonderland is all about doing things that have never been done before,” said founder Gordon Hartman. “It’s our goal, to think outside the box to make sure what we’re doing is possible for everyone in the community, not just a certain percentage. “

Two brothers – Devyn Harrigan, 7, who has spina bifida, and David, 11, who does not – climbed a specially designed climbing wall side by side with staff using the special rope and rope system. pulley. to help Devon in case her legs slipped.

Devyn’s mother, Phyllis Harrigan, said she discovered the opportunities at Morgan’s Wonderland facilities, which include a new sports facility, about two years ago and it’s given her son the kind of life that doesn’t seemed not possible before.

“I’m so happy for him because before he was always upset, crying and sad because he always wanted to play with other children and not feel different,” she said. “[Now] he’s happy all the time, he’s smiling all the time. It pushes him to do more things. Everything is good for him.

Devyn Harrigan, right, climbs a rock face with help from Torye Gleitz at Morgan’s Wonderland Camp Credit: Jennifer Norris for the San Antonio Report

Briana Troy, who has Down syndrome, demonstrated the new zipline and smiled and chuckled as she prepared to ride. Back with a broad smile and waving hands, she quickly asked for another turn.

While most ziplines start at a high elevation and descend to the ground, this one is opposite, starting on the ground and ascending 11 stories before returning.

“The reason it was built this way is to accommodate those who maybe still wanted to zip line but couldn’t because they were on a breathing machine or on oxygen or in a wheelchair. “said Hartman. “At Morgan’s Wonderland, everyone can do it all. A person in a wheelchair can take our zip line. This is the first time that this has been developed.

The zipline is like a ride in a theme park and has almost endless adaptability to accommodate any rider, including space for an oxygen tank or other medically necessary device. Challenge course instructor Tyler Wise said footrests and headrests can be added, and the seats have straps to secure occupants safely for their ride 700 feet above the ground. Texas Hill Country.

The camp also has its own water park which includes a hot pool, a larger pool with a seaside entrance, a paddling pool and a man-made river. Campers who use wheelchairs can ride directly through the water in pneumatic wheelchairs, which can operate underwater.

Mario Wright, a wheelchair athlete who participates in many team sports at Morgan’s Wonderland, was all smiles as he tested the pneumatic wheelchair. He winced and laughed when the cold water hit him, but said the chair was easy to use as he quickly got out of the pool.

Mario Wright uses a pneumatic wheelchair in the swimming pool at Morgan's Wonderland Camp.
Mario Wright uses a pneumatic wheelchair in the swimming pool at Morgan’s Wonderland Camp. Credit: Jennifer Norris for the San Antonio Report

The camp also offers horse riding with accommodation for riders of all levels, archery, an arts and crafts room, a small library, an indoor basketball court, cycling and hiking trails. large enough for two wheelchairs to travel side by side, and a 4000 square foot Kitchen and Dining Room.

The campsite can accommodate up to 500 campers and employees in 20 different cabins. It was open to a few limited campers during the summer, but now fully opens up to family weekend camps and other types of camps. The first family camp, scheduled for the first weekend in November, is already full. Hours after registration for the camp opened, all spots were taken, Hartman said, and there is now a waiting list.

In keeping with the policy of other Morgan’s Wonderland locations, Hartman has stated that anyone with special needs can attend camp for free.

Morgan’s Wonderland Campground is just the newest in the Morgan’s Wonderland range of facilities that were originally created for and inspired by Hartman’s daughter, Morgan, who was born with special cognitive and physical needs. . The campsite joins the original Morgan’s Wonderland amusement park, Morgan’s Inspiration Island Water Park and Morgan’s Wonderland Sports, which is designed to be accessible to wheelchair athletes. Morgan’s Wonderland’s other facilities are located northeast of San Antonio.

At the campground, Morgan’s Wonderland has partnered with other organizations to enable them to use the camp property and facilities. The San Antonio Food Bank makes full use of the camp kitchen for meal preparation, and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department has a substation on the property. The Edwards Aquifer Authority has also built an on-site awareness center that will be used to educate campers about the importance of San Antonio’s water sources.

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Devyn Harrigan’s name.

Sally J. Minick