NH Audubon believes that all people deserve the opportunity to access natural spaces and learn about their environment. As part of the NH Audubon strategic vision planning (download: Valuing Connections: A Vision for our Second Century) completed in January 2019, the organization continues to focus on improving inclusivity and accessibility for all at our Centers and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
NH Audubon has always prioritized building accessibility. The Massabesic and McLane Centers have wide doorways, large bathroom stalls, and interpretive information at eye level for people who use assistive devices to help them get around. The Massabesic Center hosts Gardens for the Senses where visitors who have low vision can smell or listen to volunteer-maintained vegetation that is specifically cultivated for those experiences. These sensory gardens are located near the main building and were designed and built by Martha Israel, an NH Audubon member and volunteer with low vision, in 2016. We have continued this momentum by expanding the gardens with the help of dedicated Massabesic volunteers and plan to continue to do so into the future. In the spring of 2019, NH Audubon was supported by Timberland through a volunteer workday wherein volunteers constructed a ramp at the back door accessing the gardens behind the Center.
At the McLane Center, an accessible pollinator garden was designed and installed in 2018 to provide free educational opportunities for visitors to the Center. A brick walkway winds through native plantings, allowing visitors to take in blooming flowers throughout the growing season and appreciate the many pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, and other flying insects that visit the garden. This path was re-leveled in 2019 thanks to a grant from the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities. Educational efforts near the garden include providing interpretive signage for the various species of plants throughout the garden as well as an informational kiosk that is updated daily by volunteers to highlight what plant species are in bloom as well as what pollinators have been seen in the garden. This special place allows people to stop and sit in the shade of tall trees to observe nature at their own pace.
Both Center gardens have brochures so visitors can plan out their own native pollinator garden plantings complete with maps and species to choose from.
We also offer virtual tours of the gardens on our website! This is a great way to experience the garden and get a feel for the accessibility of the grounds before an in person visit.
McLane Center Pollinator Garden Virtual Tour
Massabesic Center Gardens Virtual Tour
2019 was a landmark year in NH Audubon’s effort to enhance the experience for people who use assistive technologies to improve their mobility. We were proud to receive and implement a $24,479 grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation National Paralysis Resource Center’s High Impact Priority Quality of Life Grants and Direct Effect grant program to make improvements at the McLane and Massabesic Centers. This grant allowed each Center to receive push button door operators at the double door front entrances as well as one at the back entrances that access additional interpretive garden spaces. In addition, this grant also allowed us to finish the path around the Massabesic Center, connecting the front entrance and garden to the rear entrance with a crushed gravel path.
With the help of a grant from The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, Inc., we continued to improve access to our Demonstration Pollinator Gardens at the McLane Center in Concord. In October 2020, we installed a concrete pathway that connects visitors approaching the Center from the parking lot (around the south side of the building) with the courtyard featuring the gardens and raptor mews. This wide path invites visitors to explore all aspects of our state headquarters on improved surfaces.
Imagine sitting on the edge of a beautiful native meadow in mid-summer with your best friend, no matter their age or mobility. There are delicate blooms of pink and lavender wild bergamot with bees buzzing to and from a tall purple spike of flowers on a neighboring swamp verbena plant. Common milkweed blooms in puffs of pinkish-white clusters of flowers are swarmed with a multitude of ants, beetles, and monarch butterflies. The hustle and bustle of the world melts away as you are enveloped in the beautiful diversity of flowers and pollinators that surround you, allowing you to connect to this special ecosystem. You’ve parked at the McLane Center and were able to reach this special place in just a few minutes using a wide path designed to accommodate people using all sorts of assistive technologies to improve mobility. In the meadow, you read interpretive signage that informs you of some of the common species of plants and insects that are around you.
NH Audubon’s pollinator habitat restoration project is a collaboratively managed field near our state headquarters in Concord that began in 2021. An accessible pathway around the perimeter of this newly restored habitat allows people to learn about the project methods, the importance of native vegetation, and how to support pollinator populations on their own properties.
There are two main goals we have for this project:
We are pleased to announce that, after many years of planning and learning from the communities we intend to serve, we have built Concord’s first All Persons Trail as the perimeter pathway. This effort in July 2022 by our own Director of Lands and Ecological Management Parker Schuerman and trail building contractor Lew Shelley from SnowHawk LLC has opened up new wildlife viewing opportunities for all people.
The approximately third of a mile loop trail takes people around a newly enhanced pollinator meadow at the NH Audubon state headquarters on the Silk Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. This project is made possible by the generous funding provided by Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the community members and organizations who provided valuable feedback on our plan, and the support of our partner, St. Paul’s School.
NH Audubon is committed to ensuring our public spaces can be accessed and enjoyed by all and we realize that our organization, and frankly the state of New Hampshire as a whole, has a lot to improve on in this arena. Thanks to our partners at The Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire and their work on the All Persons Trail in Manchester, we have tangible data on the need for such accessibility and the specific approaches to make more inclusive and accessible spaces for a diversity of people into a reality.
This trail is for all people to experience the music of birds, the color of wildflowers, and the wonders of nature, while feeling included and actively welcomed.
Stories and material relating to the All Persons Trail and Demonstration Pollinator Meadow:
Pollinator Meadow Progress (August 8, 2021)
Progress on the All Persons Trail Construction (August 8, 2022)
Pollinator Panel Discussion Webinar: Lessons from the Field
To achieve an even fuller vision of inclusion and accessibility at our state headquarters, we have not let up. In 2022 and we received approval to move forward on Phase 2 of our All Persons Trail system on the Silk Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. The new loop trail features the mixed woodlands along the Enchanted Forest Loop, a trail that is part of an annual community event in October. For more information about the Enchanted Forest, visit the event webpage. We identified this loop trail as a high priority to make our events more accessible for people who use assistive devices for mobility. With this project slated to be completed September 2023, we will be able to welcome even more people to this and other events.
This ‘forever wild’ sanctuary contains nearly 100 acres of important wetland habitats, much of which can be viewed from a short boardwalk trail system that meets accessibility standards. The broad wooden accessible boardwalk extends out over the wetland to a wide viewing platform with interpretive panels.
This beautiful sanctuary boasts an abundance of wildlife – including over 200 species of birds, numerous turtles, frogs and mammals, and an astounding abundance of invertebrates.
Learn more and download a trail map.
Our Nature Camp and educational programming focuses primarily on outdoor activities. Camp programs include daily hikes on rough field and forested trails that may pose challenges for some individuals with limited mobility. We encourage families to visit our Centers and meet with education staff to determine how their child can enjoy the outdoor terrain.
Due to staffing and safety policies, NH Audubon camp and education staff are not in a position to serve in a one-one capacity for any child. We would be happy to discuss how every child can join our programs and camps in a way that is welcoming and respectful of every individual. Please contact our education team for the location of interest to discuss your child’s individual abilities and needs. NH Audubon staff will review each child’s needs to determine on a case-by-case basis whether an aide or extra family member is the best outcome. Funding is also available to support your child’s involvement in camp through scholarships.
As part of our discussion, we may request additional information, such as a copy of the child’s IEP from school, documentation from a physician, or other information to determine if an aide would be the best outcome. NH Audubon is proud to have a history of working with visitors, children, and families with a diverse range of physical and mental abilities for successful and positive nature-based experiences. Our staff are available to discuss your child’s needs at any time, but as much advance notice for planning purposes is greatly appreciated.
We appreciate your support in membership and donations that help provide nature-based experiences for people of all abilities.
Photos (from the top): Common Eider ducklings in Rye (by Walter Keane), Bhodi and his mother Deodonne Bhatttarai test out the All Persons Trail in Concord at the Silk Farm Wildlife Sanctuary (by Parker Schuerman), Massabesic Garden for the Senses (by Dyanna Smith).