Spending time in nature is good for your mental health – studies have shown it decreases stress levels and symptoms of depression and anxiety – and in an effort to make this accessible to as many people as possible, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve has been working on plans for over a year to create a Universal Access Trail that will allow handicapped people to explore the preserve.
Last month the special trail was introduced at BHWP, which already boasts 19 different trails and the largest population of over 700 species of native plants in the country.
Plans for this trail have been ongoing since fall of 2017, starting with surveying and moving into working on the trail itself in spring 2018.
Joining the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the trail was Ron Bernstein, Executive Director of Foundations Community Partnership, which donated a grant which funded the creation of the Universal Access trail.
“Foundations supports lots of programs for special needs kids and their families all over Bucks County,” said Ron at the trail launch. “There’s a little-known group of kids who all have spina bifida and they play sled hockey with customized sleds… they’re all usually in walkers and wheelchairs, and they can’t wait to get their coach to bring them up here this summer to experience nature and the outside.”
The trail is designed for handicapped users with a hand-packed crushed stone surface that is erosion resistant and considered for ease of wheelchair access.
The trail also boasts a wider length than many trails in the preserve.
“The purpose of this trail is to make it a universal access, available to anyone who wishes to spend some time in nature,” said Miles Arnott, Executive Director of BHWP. “There’s a place here for everyone.”
Miles and Ron cut the ribbon for the trail and then walked a group of board members and others in attendance through the new trail, stopping to point out the native umbrella magnolia trees and other notable inclusions along the path that create a unique aroma and sights making the trail peaceful and invigorating on the senses.
“This trail opens up the idea of how we can continue offering new interactive opportunities to trails and people who wish to experience nature,” said Miles.
The Universal Access trail provides the backbone for interactive and interpretive opportunities, hoping to add a senses trail to the offerings at BHWP in the short future.
The trail passes an organic moss garden, which provides a green emerald field effect and will grow native mushrooms, along with many other welcome sights.
The path leads through serene woodland wilderness and ends at an aquatic environment known as The Pond.
As Miles pointed out, everything in the preserve is designed to function as a natural habitat.
When a tree falls in the woodlands part of the trails, they do not move it.
These all become habitats and nurture natural ecosystems to keep a naturalistic focus throughout the preserve.
The Pond has rocks that offer shelter and homes for tadpoles, frogs, and numerous other wildlife.
Other additions include a handicapped parking space that will allow direct access to the Universal Access trail for wheelchairs and others with mobile difficulties, and a crosswalk and pedestrian crossing sign as a new addition that crosses over the trail.
PHOTO CAP: Miles Arnott (left), Executive Director of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, and Ron Bernstein, Executive Director of Foundations Community Partnership, cut the ribbon for the Universal Access Trail.