A different kind of ride share: Okanagan octogenarian creates an opportunity for all to get on the rail trail - InfoNews

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A different kind of ride share: Okanagan octogenarian creates an opportunity for all to get on the rail trail

Steve Skultety is offering free rides down the Okanagan Rail Trail for those in wheelchairs.
June 27, 2019 - 7:00 AM

VERNON - When Steve Skultety first headed out onto the Okanagan Rail Trail on his three-wheeled electric scooter, he noticed something about the cyclists and walkers on the trail.

"I noticed the people [using] the trail were all middle-aged people," Skultety said. "(There was) no old people."

The 81-year-old realized most elderly people, if they were using the trail at all, could probably only walk one or two kilometres and were missing out on the scenic beauty of the trail along the lake.

"So I said, well there's got to be a way, somehow?"

Skultety had a small trailer that he could tow with his three-wheeled electric scooter and decided to fasten a chair onto it for a passenger to sit in which would allow him to give people rides. He launched his free service in April and has taken around a dozen people out for trips along the trail.

But that wasn't where his project ended.

"Now you've taken care of the old people, I thought what about the people in a wheelchair?" Skultety said. "Twenty years ago I had a stroke and I was in a wheelchair. I know the obstacles people face in wheelchairs. At that point, I promised myself whether I am in the position to help people in wheelchairs I will."

Realizing his current trailer couldn't accommodate a wheelchair he designed a new one that would be wheelchair accessible.

Skultety headed to Eagle Industries fabrication shop who helped him tweak his design and built him a trailer. Skultety won't talk money but indicates the shop did the job for a tiny fraction of what it should have cost. A host of other businesses also cut him deals on the materials used to build the trailer.

The new trailer is now fully wheelchair accessible and will accommodate a wide variety of different sized wheelchairs. Skultety added two-wheels to each side, so if one does get a flat, he won't be left high and dry along the trail.

So far he's taken about half-a-dozen people for rides the oldest being 97-years-old. He takes people from Coldstream to Kekuli Bay, which at cycling speed is a roughly hour-and-a-half round trip.

"It's unbelievable the happiness they display when it's all over, the feedback you get is really elevating, you feel satisfaction," he said.

"Sometimes it's hard to find things that don't cost too much money... it's something that does not cost a million dollars, it just takes effort and it can produce happiness in others," Skultety said. "I probably get more out of it than they do."

While guests often try to pay Skultety for the service, the most he says he'll accept is a chocolate bar.

Skultety says he'd happily pick up guests from their homes if he could ride on bicycle paths for the whole journey, and while the trail is connected from Polson Park, he says the speed bumps in the park aren't wheelchair friendly.  The speed bumps are an issue he's written to the City about.

For now, Skultety says he'll continue to keep meeting people at Kickwillie Loop Road and taking them on trips down the rail trail, whether in his first trailer or his latest wheelchair friendly trailer.

To organize a trip email Steve Skultety at: skultetys.81@gmail.com

Skultety in action on the rail trail.
Skultety in action on the rail trail.

The back of the trailer folds down, allowing wheelchairs to access the trailer.
The back of the trailer folds down, allowing wheelchairs to access the trailer.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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