Crotched Mountain conference focuses on making trails accessible
By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent | September 24. 2013 9:43PM
Janet Zeller, a Nation Accessibility Program Manager for the U.S. Forest Service, teaches the new federal guidelines regarding the accessibility of nature trails during the Sustainable Trails for All Conference at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield Tuesday afternoon. (MEGHAN PIERCE PHOTO)
Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center opened its accessible trail system in 2011 after working with Zeller and trail designer and builder Peter Jensen to build the trails to be easily accessible to people of all abilities, including people who use wheelchairs for mobility, seniors and families with children.
Zeller and Jensen designed the trail system to the standards of the soon-to-be-released federal guidelines, LaRose said. So they serve as a perfect example during the conference.
For many at the conference the guidelines will serve as a model in best practices for trail building, but for others knowing how to design and build a trail to these new standards is part of their job. The guidelines apply to new or altered federal trails.
What she learns at the conference will also be passed on by her to 10,000 volunteers who help maintain the more than 2,000 miles of trails that are part of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, she said.
That project didn’t meet the accessibility standards Wheelchair Health in Motion had intended it to, Seidel said, so he was at the conference to learn the guidelines and hands- on skills Jensen was teaching so that perhaps in the future the Newbury trails could be made more accessible, he said.
“We hope as many people as possible will incorporate these guidelines,” LaRose said. “Somebody who has a disability can hike on a trial for a good length of time with their family and not be left behind. It can be a challenging experience. It can be a beautiful experience. They’ll be able to experience that together. We think that’s very important.”