This is a guest post written by Enock Glidden, MTF Accessibility Ambassador, Public Speaker, Adaptive Athlete, and Adventurer. To learn more about Enock, please visit his website.
Now that the days are getting shorter I am keeping my hiking adventures close to home. One of the benefits of this decision is the discovery of amazing places in my own backyard. I went to Maine Trail Finder and searched the Bethel area. I had no idea there was a section of rail trail in Norway, Maine.
The beauty of rail trails is that they are wide and usually very flat. Trains don’t usually go up hills. If they do they are usually gradual and not steep. This was exactly the case with the Norway Rail Trail. It is a 0.6-mile one-way. wide and flat trail. It starts with some wooden pillars affixed to concrete. This was the only issue I found with the trail. The pillars may not be too close together, The concrete blocks that hold the pillars were not completely buried. This is where there may be an issue for some people. The requirement for accessibility says the 32-36 inches need to be clear, even space. I had to go up over the concrete blocks which was fine for me. I could see it tripping someone up though.
The entrance is right across from the police station in Norway. There is a really big parking area that is also nice and flat.
After going through the pillars there is a well-built beautiful bridge over a small brook. The trail leads through forest and marshland. It is also conveniently located behind a lot of housing. I could see some places where people have made their own access trails.
The trail crosses two roads so be aware of that. It ends at a skate park where all the neighborhood kids hang out. It is a well-made park with quite a lot of features.
The whole trail out and back took us about 45 minutes. It isn’t super long but makes for a really beautiful and easy stroll.
After completing the rail trail I decided to go check out Roberts Farm Preserve. I have been there before but not for quite a while. They have a trail that they deemed accessible called the Libby Trail. This is the description from MTF “The ADA-compliant trail offers a route of 0.3 miles to a scenic viewpoint. It is suitable for young children on skis or foot, and is user-friendly for older hikers and those with disabilities. The trail is 8 feet wide and has a smooth and stable surface of 1.5 inch screened gravel. In the spring, summer, and fall, this trail supports stroller and wheelchair users along with runners and walkers. In the winter, one set of classic ski tracks is set. This trail offers people of all ages and abilities access to the outdoors.”
This trail starts with two metal pillars which I think are far enough apart at the top. However, the clear space at the bottom might not be quite enough to technically be accessible. I noticed the ground where the pillars are buried encroaches into what should be clear space.
The trail is very wide but in some ways, I think that is where the accessibility ends. It is mostly uphill the entire length of the trail to the vista. It isn’t very steep. The surface is definitely solid and packed but the gravel made it really hard to push. I kept getting caught on the rocks. If it was a smoother surface it would not be hard to push up the hill at all. I wish I had tried it when it was first constructed because I bet it wasn’t quite as rough. I have a feeling over time the rocks have eroded, which has made the trail harder to push over.
After pushing on this surface I started thinking about what would make a good trail surface based on all the trails I have done thus far. It occurred that using a rototiller where there aren’t a lot of tree roots and then packing the tilled earth down with a roller might be a cost-effective way to make a path that is firm and smooth. There is also a product called soil stabilizer that can be added while tilling the earth. The stabilizer makes the dirt as hard as concrete and prevents erosion over time. It seems that surfaces, other than pavement, that are added on top of the ground like gravel tend to deteriorate and actually make the path harder to travel over time.
The Libby Trail leads to a pretty spectacular view of Pennesseewassee lake. There is a really nice seating area with rock slabs. It may be hard for people who have trouble standing back up as they are quite low.
While this trail is technically accessible I do think some people would have a hard time if they have trouble walking or aren’t used to pushing uphill for long stretches.
The farm has an amazing network of trails for cross country skiing and I plan to go back this winter to check that out. I am betting it will be a lot easier with the surfaces covered in snow. There is also a warming hut that is accessible. I may need to make use of that this winter too.
I would rate both of these trails a Just do it! While the Libby Trail is harder, it is still worth the effort for that amazing view. The rail trail would be a great trail to do some laps and get some exercise
JUST DO IT!:
Most people will be capable of navigating this trail with very little assistance.
After going through several gates lately, I have thought about the 36-inch clear space for trail entrances requirement. I am not sure how to make the entrance 36 inches wide but also keep out smaller ATVs and other motorized vehicles. There is a workaround in ADA-compliance that allows for entrance space to be 32 inches in the case of keeping out motorized vehicles. This definitely would accommodate most wheelchairs or other adaptive devices.
I suppose a gate might work also as long as a person could open it and close it on their own. I know trail managers could put up signs but we all know some people would not take the signs seriously. It costs a lot to build trails and to have them torn up would be a major problem.
Overall, I think for the most part the landowners and trail managers in Maine are doing a great job making outdoor spaces accessible to everyone. I can’t wait to see how things progress from our work at Maine Trail Finder!
If you have a different type of mobility issue or a different disability and you visit this trail or others, please comment on this post and give us your feedback. The more knowledge we gather and share, the more people we can get outside using the trails of Maine!
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