Advocates are marking the 30th anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act with plans for a new accessible trail in Manchester.
The Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire is building the project at its Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve.
When it opens next summer, it’ll include a new trail and upgrades to some of the existing path, plus a new boardwalk, city bus stop and larger parking lot.
The project will cost nearly half a million dollars, including some state grant money, and will meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The law, enacted 30 years ago this month, says accessible trails should ideally be wider, with a flatter grade, among other specifications.
Nature Conservancy ecologist Joanne Glode says the Manchester Cedar Swamp is a rare ecosystem for the Northeast and the largest natural parcel within the city limits.
"With this site being so close to the largest urban area in New Hampshire, we wanted the trails to appeal to more than just our typical visitors,” Glode says.
She spoke on a virtual panel Tuesday with disability rights advocates, who say they hope projects like this will lead to more accessible recreation options in the state – considering ways to help people and families of all abilities and backgrounds.
“The needs of someone who uses a wheelchair might be different for someone who’s blind or someone who has autism or someone who has other physical disabilities,” says Stephanie Patrick, who leads the Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire.
The Nature Conservancy says it wants the new Manchester trail to also help elderly people and families with young kids as well as people of different physical capabilities.
It’s the nonprofit’s second accessible trail. They say their first, which opened at the Ossipee Pine Barrens in 2018, has led to a four-fold increase in visitors.