COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) — Colorado Springs is filled with beautiful trails, and it can be easy to take them for granted. However, Drew Wills certainly won’t.
“Trying to enjoy this beautiful surrounding that we have here in Colorado Springs,” Wills said while sitting on his bike. He cycles through areas in Stratton Open Space at least five days a week.
But if you see Wills out on the trail, you’ll quickly notice his bike is unlike most others.
“It’s the equivalent of a mountain bike for people who can’t use their legs,” said Wills.
The 62-year-old Colorado Springs native exercises on an off-road hand cycle; he’s been a proud paraplegic athlete since a ski injury left him paralyzed from the waist down 15 years ago.
Stratton Open Space is his playground.
Earlier this year he noticed the trails were being renovated, but the new renovations left parts of the trail inaccessible to differently-abled athletes like him.
“Drew reached out to me last spring,” said Dan Allen, trail project specialist with the City of Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department.
“He was having difficulty negotiating turns and then had our contractor make some improvements to the trail and make it more rideable and more enjoyable,” said Allen.
He’s thrilled that Wills reached out to him so they could make the adjustments.
“This was a learning opportunity for me. I wasn’t quite sure what a handcycle was or what it was capable of so, what I learned from that experience, we’re definitely applying to our trail design,” said Allen.
“It was a few extra hours of work but I feel like, we want to make sure all members of the community are welcome and out here enjoying our open spaces,” he said.
Possibly even more thrilled about the trail renovations is Wills’ wife, Jeanie.
“He has been exceptional, outstanding, amazing,” she said, proud that her husband was leading positive change for outdoor athletes.
“I’m very blessed to have such an amazing man in my life,” she said. “He does more with what he has than most people do with all that they have … Drew’s little motto is ‘you get busy livin’ or you get busy dyin’.'”
And, with the help of the city’s Parks and Recreation team, Wills plans to keep staying busy.
“I’ve been riding it since and enjoying it just about every day,” said Wills.
“This was refreshing. I have to give credit where credit is due. They responded immediately,” he said.
“If it’s something you really want to do, you’ll find a way to do it … You may have to do it differently if you’re disabled but you can still do it.”
Wills is a local attorney and is also a board member for the Independence Center, a foundation that advocates for accessibility to get all people independent and active. Wills was also the first person to hand-cycle the Pike’s Peak Cycling Hill Climb.