filed under: interpretation

Creating Accessible Trails with Universally Designed Interpretation

This webinar will provide an overview of Mass Audubon’s All Persons Hiking Trails.

Presented by:

Event Details

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April 12, 2018

10:30 AM to 12:00 AM (Pacific Time) {more time zones}

11:30 AM to 01:00 AM (Mountain Time)
12:30 PM to 02:00 AM (Central Time)
01:30 PM to 03:00 AM (Eastern Time)


FREE for members
FREE for nonmembers

Learning Credit Cost:

  • CEUs are FREE for this webinar.
  • Note:

    Closed Captioning is available for this webinar.
    Learning Credits
    are available for this webinar.


    Webinar Outline

    photo credit: Pil Doyle


    This webinar will provide an overview of Mass Audubon’s All Persons Hiking Trails. Statewide, we have developed and now operate several accessible trail segments, with a dozen of them offering universally-designed interpretation. Our twelve All Persons Trails, located at urban, suburban, and rural wildlife sanctuaries throughout Massachusetts, invite visitors of all abilities to experience different woodland, meadow, and wetland habitats, while travelling on various trail surfaces including natural surfacing, asphalt, concrete, and crushed rock. The trails typically have boardwalks and bridges over or alongside wetlands, some navigational resources (such as rope guides or curbing for visually impaired visitors), wayside multisensory stops and displays, and trail materials in multiple formats including audio tours, braille signage and booklets, and tactile trail maps. This webinar is suitable for novices and intermediates, anyone from an organization looking to learn how such projects get planned and completed.


    • Attendees will be introduced to the planning and permitting process for such a trail
    • Attendees will become familiar with the design and use considerations which make each trail a unique experience
    • Attendees will be provided with general construction planning details and construction process, and the professionals needed to make the project a success
    • Attendees will be introduced to the experiential components of the trails
    • Attendees will be introduced to the inclusive planning process we undertook in order to best meet the needs of visitors with a wide range of abilities and needing various accessibility accommodations
    • Attendees will be provided with an introduction to the ongoing operational needs of these trails, from maintenance to trail user outreach

    This webinar qualifies as a Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) course (via LA CES).


    Webinar Partners


    Lucy Gertz, Statewide Education Projects Manager, Mass Audubon

    Lucy Gertz, B.S., M.A., has 30+ years of environmental education experience. She has presented and coordinated dozens of workshops at local, regional, and national conferences and training programs including curriculum development, lesson planning, working with volunteers, interpretive planning, and accessibility. At Mass Audubon, Lucy manages statewide education initiatives, working with teams at 20 nature centers to strengthen educational program design, delivery, and evaluation. She manages the planning and production of materials for 500,000 annual visitors and supports educators and visitor services personnel in building capacity for accessibility and inclusion, along with other key organizational priorities.


    Stu Weinreb, Director of Capital Assets & Planning, Mass Audubon

    Stu Weinreb has applied his landscape architecture skills to protect, enhance and manage natural and cultural resources for public benefit and enjoyment for over 30 years. His career in public work began at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, with the restoration of Walden Pond’s banks and trails. He went on to plan and manage the restoration of significant sites across the state park system, including Mt. Greylock, and Pilgrim Memorial State Park, the site of Plymouth Rock. Currently, as the Director of Capital Assets and Planning for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, an educational nonprofit organization, Weinreb oversees planning, design, and construction of major improvement projects for the 61 wildlife sanctuaries Mass Audubon owns and operates for the purposes of education and environmental conservation. Weinreb is a longstanding member of the Walden Pond Board of Directors, a citizen’s advisory committee that advises the Department of Conservation and Recreation on park planning and management. In 2013, Weinreb received the ASLA’s LaGasse Medal for contributions to the management and conservation of natural resources and public landscapes.


    Webinar Resources


    Accessibility Part 2 – Creating Accessible Trails with Universally Designed Interpretation

    April 12, 2018

    Denise asks: Can you talk to the difference in cost between a crushed stone trail vs. a grass-pave trail?

    STU: We have found that the GrassPave alternative is comparable in price to a typical crushed stone trail. We are receiving proposals for both GrassPave and crushed stone trails that are in the $8-$10/sf range, depending on site conditions.

    Susan asks: What type of construction do you recommend for boardwalks in wetland areas?

    STU: We typically utilize helical piers in wetlands. They are essentially a large self-tapping screw that can be screwed into the ground and serves as a footing for the boardwalk. Once the helical pier is installed, you can attach traditional wood framing to it. We have found that conservation commissions like helical piers because they require no excavation and no filling in wetland areas.

    Nathan asks: Under what conditions would a rope guiding system work best and under what circumstances would a rope guiding system not work?

    LUCY: Post & Rope guiding systems work best where there is an uninterrupted trail loop or linear trail segment without many (ideally without any) intersections with other trails. Without intersections with other trails, you can have continuity of post & rope without having to put in breaks and then explain to a non-sighted visitor how to find the next section of rope and continue on the trail. Other places where a post & rope system might not work so well are areas, such as meadows, where property managers need to mow or do other regular maintenance. In such locations, the location of the posts would restrict the maintenance practices.

    Brandon asks: How much usage do the Braille and large print trail materials get?

    LUCY: Many visitors bring downloaded and printed large print booklets with them when they visit, others request a copy when they arrive. We probably reprint a few hundred copies each year, for each trail. There’s no way to download the Braille, so those materials need to be requested upon arrival. Fewer people ask for and use the Braille, but we decided to have it available for the 15% of visually impaired people who read Braille.

    Ann Toledo asks: When designing a bridge and engaging an engineer for bridge work, is every situation unique, or do you have any advice for an agency looking to install multiple, accessible bridges that are consistent across a park system.

    STU: It is possible, and actually beneficial, to have a standard bridge design in terms of structural approach, materials, and overall appearance if you are designing several bridges within a system. However, there are usually no two situations that are exactly alike with regard to the span required, grades that need to be accommodated, and soil conditions that need to be taken into account. Therefore, the engineer should be relying on topographic survey information, soils information, and any other project requirements, to design a bridge that responds to the specific needs of the location each bridge will be built in.

    The grass-pave system is very inspiring. What are the maintenance requirements? Is it simply mowed on a regular schedule like lawn would be?

    STU: GrassPave has few maintenance requirements other than regular mowing. You can treat it like a regular lawn, making sure that it receives adequate water and occasional fertilizing as necessary.

    Peter Martin asks: Do you have all-inclusive cost ranges for boardwalks, grass pave, pavers, etc. Typical expected cots or rules of thumb for 2017-2018

    STU: We are seeing a cost range of $8-$10/sf for crushed stone trails and GrassPave trails, depending on site conditions. For boardwalks, we are seeing a cost range of $85-$100/sf, depending on site conditions, footing requirements, etc. in our area.

    What Rope maintenance requirements and replacement intervals?

    LUCY: We use nautical rope, so weathering is not usually a problem. We have had to replace some of the rope segments, mainly due to vandalism. In the 10 years we have had these rope guides up at 6 locations, we have replaced the entire rope at just one site, and we’ve had to put in patches at two sites.

    Cheryl Baxter asks: What is a cell phone tour?

    LUCY: Each of our All Persons Trails have an audio tour. Where cell signals are strong and consistent enough, we have the trail’s audio tour available through a phone number accessed with a visitor’s cell phone. We pay a fee ($65/month when the tour is open) for a cell phone host company to set up and maintain this tour phone number for us.

    Laurie Giannotti asks: Can we hear something about funding for maintenance of the trail and the overlay experience? Partnerships or operating funds? A ball park range of cost annually?

    LUCY: It generally costs $7000 to $9000 to initially plan and install the experiential overlay. Maintenance varies, and can include re-surfacing trail sections, repairing boardwalks and railings, updating or replacing signage, reprinting materials, and paying the cell phone host company monthly fees.

    Stephanie White asks: Are there funding mechanisms i.e. grants, etc. to implement all persons trails you are aware of?

    STU: In Massachusetts, our state parks agency, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, administers a Recreational Trail Project grant program. Funding is in part from federal monies that is distributed to states. See: Check your state government website to see if federal funds are available for trail projects. We have also approached local organizations and individual donors to support our trail projects.

    Sean Hammond asks: You mentioned that some states may have adopted the Forest Service Guidelines -how can we go about doing this in our state? Who do you start with?

    STU: In Massachusetts, the state Department of Safety has an Architectural Access Board that is responsible for ensuring ADA compliance. The AAB has regulations governing all aspects of building design related to accessibility. However, it does not specifically regulate trails. We are in the process of advocating that the Mass. AAB adopt the FSTAG so that there is a clear and consistent set of guidelines for those who want to create new trails. I think you should find out which state agency oversees accessibility in your state, and then find out if there are any rules and regulations that govern trail construction. If not, you may want to contact your local trail advocates and together work toward adoption of FSTAG by your state.

    Chris Sheffield asks: Is your state accessibility regulation agency helpful during this process and does it understand the distinction between access routes and trails? I think if we brought a nature trail to our states access board’s attention, they would want to apply “sidewalk” rules to it. I’m afraid they would not want to say, “Nature trails are not under our purview… you might want to follow best practices from the ABA.”

    STU: See my answer above. Our state’s Architectural Access Board is in the process of revising its regulations, but has not addressed trails specifically, which is very hard to understand. We are working on gathering comments from a range of organizations in support of having the Mass. AAB adopt the Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines, so that there is clear guidance on trail development standards. I agree that we don’t want access route or sidewalk standards applied to trails. We believe the best way to change things is to build an advocacy effort aimed at establishing a distinct set of guidelines that applies to accessible trails.

    Christopher Douwes shares:

    Recreational Trails Program information:

    Contact your State Trail Administrator:

    STU: This is good information – thanks!

    Closed Captioning

    We are offering closed captioning for our webinars, thanks to a partnership with VZP Digital. If you are in need of this service, please email us prior to the webinar. An unedited transcript will be sent to all attendees following the webinar.

    Learning Credits and CEUs

    American Trails is proud to be a certified provider of the following learning credits and continuing education opportunities:

    • American Institute of Certified Planners Continuing Maintenance (AICP CM)
    • Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES PDH)
    • National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) CEU equivalency petition
    • CEU/PDH equivalency petition for other accepting organizations

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    While we may individually agree (or disagree) in whole or in part with any or all of the participants, the views expressed in these webinars are not necessarily representative of the views of American Trails as an organization or its board and staff.

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