Imagine hiking in the woods despite the fact that you have limited mobility. What would that be like for you? Well, I did just that when my friend Marjorie Turner Kuhl Hollman asked me to join her and her friend Sue on one of her Easy Walks. She found an ADA accessible trail that got me into the woods and out to a reservoir - it was raining and cold and AWESOME!
With that said, there are still many things that make hiking difficult for people with disabilities. For instance, a trail may be listed as "accessible" but still not be user-friendly for people with limited mobility or other challenges. On this particular hike, I faced many obstacles that are not accessible for many people even though it was an accessible trail and accommodations had been made to make it a fairly easy walk.
The hike that Marjorie chose for us was the Rummins River Trail in Seekonk, MA. It is a new trail which is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. The problem with ADA compliance is that there is not a uniform standard requirement or guideline for access to recreation. Another challenge is that disabilities are so varied that it is difficult to make accommodations for everyone and still maintain a "natural" environment. Many accommodations that are being made are things like braille trail maps and signage, audio files for guided tours, and pathway that accommodate different types of mobility. I, myself, need to use a walker and Marjorie uses hiking poles to help with stability so the Rummins River Trail seemed to have the access we needed and it was great opportunity for us to try hiking together.
However, the very first obstacle I faced was as soon as I reached the edge of the parking lot. This required navigating over a bit of broken pavement from the parking lot then follow a grass and dirt path down a hill to get to the actual trail. It was raining the day we went hiking and this area had some sections that were wash-out which be a difficult for both manual and electric wheelchairs, but it can be done.
The actual path was a combo of crushed stone, gravel, wood chips, and boardwalk, but it was level and an easy walk. The full trail is about 1.5 miles around, but we ran out of walkway (accessible walkway) at around .2 miles. So the round trip of this section of the hike was about .45 miles.
Most of the trail was flat and easy to use, however, the wood-chip section of the path is difficult if you are using a wheelchair or walker. This section of the trail can be avoided. The wood-chip section was a loop around to get back to the parking lot so you can take the more direct path which is crushed stone.
END OF THE TRAIL Marjorie and I made it as far as we could before we ran out of accessible trail at the Rummins River Trail
Since this hike was not very long, we decided to go to a second trail. The second trail of was down by the Turner Reservoir Loop Trail. We parked at Ledge Rd (1) and hiked up to the reservoir (2). This section of the hike was about .69 miles round trip and even thought it was a longer trail, it was a lot easier than the Rummins River Trail. The paths at this location were mostly packed gravel and wooden boardwalk which made it a lot smoother for me to use with my walker. the paths were also wide enough to walk side by side and to use with a wheelchair or stroller.
Unfortunately, there was a slight uphill/downhill for most of the hike which could be difficult for people using a manual wheelchair or for those pushing a chair. Then, to get to the actual reservoir, required going up a steep grassy hill. This would not be accessible for most people using wheelchairs or walkers - but it can be done as evidence of me making to the reservoir.
Marjorie, Sue, and I overlooking the Ten Mile River and the Turner Resevoir
Overall - I HIGHLY recommend this trail for and am excited to explore more local spots for us to find and use!!
And check out what my hiking friend Marjorie Turner Kuhl Hollman wrote about our hike in her blog https://marjorieturner.com/…/walking-in-anothers-shoes-ada…/