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Trails to nature for all

Mass Audubon develops a manual for improving universally designed interpretive trails

By Michael P. O’Connor, Mass Audubon

regional conservation leader, which was founded in 1896 and inspired the national Audubon movement, in recent years has been developing accessible trails at its wildlife sanctuaries through- out Massachusetts.


Sanctuary visitors with mobility and sensory disabilities can now follow pathways that welcome exploration of the natural world with state-of-the- technology communication and naviga- tion tools that profoundly enhance the quality of their outdoor experiences. Based on its years of experience in building accessible trails and a well- earned reputation for connecting people of all backgrounds with nature, Mass Audubon was selected and funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to prepare a

Tactile display at Boston Nature Center

“how to” manual that like-minded orga- nizations nationwide could use to guide them in designing their own trails. Mass Audubon’s All Persons Trails:

A Manual for Guidelines and Best Practices for Developing and Operating Universally Designed Interpreted Trails Experiences is now available as a free PDF download on the organization’s website.

The 70-page guide is designed to be

comprehensive in addressing the issues and questions confronting trail plan-  small and to individuals no matter what their resources.

Land owners, managers, and trail planners will learn about an array of pertinent subjects, from appropri- ate infrastructure, site selection, and construction advice to regulations and permitting, as well as signage, and “state-of-the-technology” audio tours and navigation devices. These All Persons Trails, hopefully, will not only encourage many more people with a full range of functional abilities—physical, sensory, brain- based—to discover the outdoors, but also convey more subtle messages. “For instance, able-bodied hikers, understandably perhaps, don’t always ‘see’ the physical challenges faced by others they’re sharing a trail with, and maybe making it easier for more people with disabilities to enjoy nature will open some eyes,” said Mass Audubon Director of Capital Assets and Planning Stu Weinreb, who has been instrumental in All Persons Trails Project design and construction.

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary Trail with guideline for sight-impaired visitors 6 FALL 2016

ass Audubon is committed to helping people connect with nature. In meeting that commitment, the

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