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.
September 25th was National Public Lands Day. Sandy and I decided to celebrate the occasion locally with a hike on the Bethel Pathway and Valentine Farm Universally Accessible Trail. Given I only live about 5 minutes from the trailhead, I have to say I am a little ashamed I hadn’t yet done the trail this summer. In my defense, I've been trying to give people options for trails to visit all over the state.
The best surprise of the day was that the Bethel Pathway now connects to the accessible trail at Valentine Farm! If you look on the map you can see the 2 sections that are marked as accessible with the new section in between.
Based on the descriptions of the two segments on Maine Trail Finder, I estimated the entire trail to be about 4 miles in length from Davis Park to Valentine Farm and back. I have actually done the separate segments many times over the years, but it had been a few months since I had gone with friends. I was incredibly impressed with the amount of work that has been done over the summer.
First I want to point out how the trail starts. I have been to a couple of properties this summer that have rocks blocking the trail entrance. This is in an effort to keep motorized vehicles from entering the trails. Unfortunately, this also prevents wheelchairs from entering. Bethel has done it right with a combination of rocks and a metal pole. It still prevents entry by large vehicles or ATVs but also allows access to everyone else.
There are now exercise areas along the paved section of the Bethel Pathway as well as beautifully painted activities for kids and adults alike. There is even a wheelchair course, which I tried. It was super fun and actually a bit challenging. There are also multiple benches to stop and rest.
I also noticed the bridges have been refurbished. There used to be a couple of boards that stuck up. They are now flat and the ends of the bridge have ramps down to the paved trail surface The only somewhat difficult part of the entire paved section is the hills before and after the bridge that crosses the Androscoggin River. I never have any trouble with them but I could see that some people could. There is also a gap between the bridge and the pavement at each end of the bridge. Just be sure to be careful of that.
The paved path winds back under the bridge around the Bethel Adventure Center until coming to an end when it meets North Road. This is where the new section begins that connects the Pathway to Valentine Farm. I love that this happened. I hadn’t done this part until this weekend and was super impressed with the work that has been done.
As you cross the road there is a short section that leads back out to the edge of the road. I was a little worried about the roadside section. I have pushed my chair on the side of the road before and it’s almost always soft and hard to push over. I was pleasantly surprised to see the trail builders made sure to compact the surface in this area. It was very easy to navigate all the way to the road that goes behind the airport.
Not to say it got harder at this point because it definitely didn’t. The connector section is very easy. The one issue I had was the size of the crushed gravel in some areas. There were rather large pieces which made it a bit rough. I think this is probably due to rain washing away the stone dust and it likely will be fixed and as time goes on and the trail hardens.
Just past the airport the trail crosses the road again and enters the Valentine Farm. This property has had an accessible trail available to the public since around 2016. It is a very accessible trail. It also is 1.2 miles long if you do both the east and west loop. That is highly unusual when it comes to accessible trails as they generally are under a half-mile long, in my experience. The trail and property have had some major improvements since they were first established.
There is now a number of storyboards around the loops for kids and adults to read and learn from. There are also picnic tables at a few of the beautiful viewing areas. There is even a pollinator garden for all to enjoy. Even this late in the season it is stunningly beautiful.
This amazing gift to the Bethel area community by the Town of Bethel and the Mahoosuc Land Trust is a true treasure. This is another example of two different organizations coming together for the good of the world and our community.
Even though the new connector section is not marked as accessible on the map, in my opinion, it is very accessible. Maybe there is a technicality to make it not legally accessible, but I didn't see one. I am definitely rating this one Just Do It! and do it often! I will be from now on, I promise.
Just do it!:
Most people will be capable of navigating this trail with very little assistance.
If you have a different type of mobility issue or a totally 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!
Success! A new password has been emailed to you.