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.
This year I am hoping to get some group or one on one hikes together. I would love to interview other people with disabilities about their experiences in the outdoors. The more perspectives we can share the better the information will be and the more progress we can make.
Hey fellow hikers! I recently had the chance to hang out at Hawkes and Frazier Preserves in Gorham with Toby from the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. They are planning to make two trails more accessible and they wanted my recommendations.
We started at Hawkes Preserve Trailhead on Tow Path Road. The trail is actually the old tow path that ran alongside the Cumberland Oxford Canal. The towpath was used by horses to pull the boats up the canal. I love learning the history of the places I visit in Maine. This one is particularly interesting. To learn more about the canal and what it did for Maine, you can check out the Wikipedia page here.
The towpath trail starts at the end of Towpath Road. There is a small but well constructed parking area. There is a designated accessible parking space closest to the trailhead.
The proposed improved section is 0.43 miles one way without any slopes greater than 2 percent. This makes the trail ideal for improving accessibility. It is also very wide.
There are a number of spots where roots could be an issue and will need to be mitigated.
The trail is so wide that it is easy to find a path around the obstacles. There is one area that has a significant dip. This will be bridged at some point.
Beauty abounds along this section of trail as it skirts the Presumpscot River and a pond.
There are also a couple of really well made bridges that are wide enough to accommodate assistive technology.
This trail would be rated Wheelie Moderate as it is right now. This is due to the major dip and some of the root systems. I don't believe it will take much work to make this an easy trail for wheelchair users. One bridge and some root removal and it should be good to go.
The second trail we checked out is at Frazier Preserve. This trail utilizes an old railroad bed. I mentioned to Toby as we were strolling along that my two favorite trail locations are along waterways and railroad beds because they are usually flat. We got both on the same day.
The trail starts near the Gorham High School athletic fields. It works out perfectly as the parking is paved and accessible.
The beginning of the trail has big rocks blocking access to motorized vehicles, but there is an adequate opening thanks to Toby and a volunteer who adjusted one of the large rocks.
This trail is about 0.62 miles one way or 1.23 miles round trip. It has a maximum slope of 3 percent about 0.4 miles into the trail. It is extremely wide as it was used by the railroad which makes it very easy to pick a path. There are almost no obstacles at all other than a few small routes and some coarse gravel in the center of the trail.
There is one curve before getting to the road crossing at William Henry Drive. The turn has some significant cross slope and is downhill. This will need to be made more level and less steep to make it more accessible.
When you come to WIlliam Henry Drive there isn't a curb cut to cross the road. I had to go up the sidewalk to a driveway and then back along the road to cross. Hopefully this can be remedied, but if not I would recommend stopping here and turning around. It could be dangerous to push along the road.
After crossing the road the trail gets even better. I know I am just encouraging you to cross the road by saying that but it's true. There is even another really well-made boardwalk in this section too. It was constructed with an all-volunteer effort. They did an awesome job.
The trail officially ends where the mountain biking trails begin. That is another thing you will need to look out for. I didn't see any bikers during my time on the trail but it is something to watch out for.
I would rate this trail Easy throughout. The road crossing makes it logistically more difficult but the trail is very easy overall.
On a side note Toby pointed out some Autumn Olive along the trail. This is actually an invasive plant that has berries on it that are edible. They taste a bit like lime and cranberry. I love hiking with the stewards of these lands. I always learn something new.
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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