Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
A close-up, cropped photo of a person seated in a wheelchair with their hand on the wheel, using the accessible All Persons Trail boardwalk
Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Norfolk

More Accessible Opportunities to Connect With Nature

April 16, 2024

Nature—and the physical, mental, and emotional health benefits that it provides—should be accessible to everyone. Mass Audubon not only believes this at our core, but we're taking a leading role in making this a reality at wildlife sanctuaries across the state through our innovative MAPLE (Mass Audubon Accessible Programs & Learning Experiences) program.

Central to MAPLE, our universally designed, accessible All Persons Trails continue to offer new ways for people with mobility or site challenges to experience the wonders of nature.

Two New Accessible Places to Explore

This past fall, two new All Persons Trails debuted: one at Cedar Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Wenham and the other at Brewster’s Woods Wildlife Sanctuary in Concord.

A path with gravel and guide ropes on the left side through a forest in the fall.
Cedar Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Wenham

At Cedar Pond, explore 17 multisensory enrichment stops along the 0.9-mile Woodland Trail, including tactile exhibits to learn about the animals that make Cedar Pond Wildlife Sanctuary their home. This trail, which has seating areas spaced every 500 feet, is surfaced with a stone dust mixture and is equipped with a navigational post-and-rope guiding system for nearly its entire length.

The original trails that wandered through Brewster’s Woods were narrow and rough, suited for use by residents and small groups of neighbors. Steep, eroded sections made travel difficult for some visitors using wheelchairs, pushing strollers, or with mobility challenges. Thanks to the work of Appalachian Mountain Club Professional Trail Crew and Mass Audubon’s stellar accessibility consultants, the 1.2-mile Fisher Trail now features a firm, stable surface of crushed stone on a mostly level rolling terrain. Coming soon: benches and a self-guided interpretive tour.

A wooden boardwalk with a gravel path on either ends cutting though a forest.
Brewster's Woods Wildlife Sanctuary in Concord

Enhancing the Experience

Most of our All Persons Trails have a self-guided tour, offering visitors an enriching hourlong educational, multi-sensory, interpretive experience. Information and materials for those tours are available online in multiple formats including trail tour booklets (ready-to-print or customizable for preferred font, size, and color) and as an audio tour.

Staffed nature centers have tactile trail maps, braille tour booklets, audio players, and adaptive mobility equipment (GRIT Freedom Chair, 40-Laps All-Terrain Walker, seat canes) available. For All Persons Trails at sites with no staffed nature center, like Brewster’s Woods and Cedar Pond, trail information is available online, and materials and adaptive equipment may be made available for use if requested in advance.

Beyond Trails

In addition to building, maintaining, and enhancing the network of 17 All Persons Trails (with more in the works), MAPLE also provides vocational-transitional internships, inclusive volunteering opportunities, sensory-friendly days, and accessible and adaptive programs and events.

Sensory display on the All Persons Trail

We plan to develop eight more All Persons Trails to bring our total to 25 by 2026. Two of the planned new trails to open next year are Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable and Pawtucket Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lowell.