CONCORD — The New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Disability recently honored The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire for the creation of an accessible trail at the Ossipee Pine Barrens Preserve.
The Ossipee Pine Barrens Preserve is a 2,600-acre property in Ossipee, Freedom, Tamworth and Madison, with trails that explore one of the state’s most unique natural systems. Last October, the Nature Conservancy held a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the ¾-mile accessible trail in the preserve.
Governor’s Accessibility Award is given each year to individuals or organizations who have distinguished themselves through initiatives that embody the mission of the Americans with Disabilities Act, are chosen to receive this prestigious award.
The 2019 award ceremony was held on Thursday, Sept. 19, in the Executive Council Chamber. at the State House.
“When it comes to issues of accessibility and inclusion, the fact is that disability rights are human rights. Everyone has to take ownership of that, and all departments in the state have to take ownership of what they’re doing to instill that culture,” said Gov. Chris Sununu.
The Governor’s Accessibility Award reflects how far New Hampshire has come since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed 29 years ago. Award winners are chosen based on those who go above and beyond the basic-level ADA requirements to create a New Hampshire that’s accessible to all.
“At The Nature Conservancy, we set lofty goals. An example of this is our recently announced $40 million fundraising campaign, ‘the Future of Nature.’ This campaign is the biggest private fundraising campaign for conservation in our state’s history. It’s taking us off the business-as-usual path and putting us on a more sustainable and inclusive future,” said Sheila Vargas, government and community relations manager at The Nature Conservancy. “The bigger part of this campaign is that it seeks to invest in amplifying the bond between people and nature by breaking down the barriers to getting outside.”
Like most trails in New Hampshire, the Pine Barrens trails have unpredictable footing, exposed roots and varying trail widths making navigation difficult for people using wheelchairs or pushing strollers, for families exploring with young children, for grandparents — for anyone in need of more secure footing.
The new trail is comprised of sand and crushed gravel. Roots, large rocks and other obstacles have been removed, making it accessible to those who would have been challenged to hike there. The ¾-mile long trail ends at a platform overlooking the West Branch River.
“I walked the accessible trail, and it was truly great to see what The Nature Conservancy has done in making this trail accessible,” said commission member Ellen Keith. “Now, every citizen, including people with mobility challenges, can enjoy a peaceful woodland trail.”
The Future of Nature campaign was created to enable a suite of investments in tackling the climate challenge, charting a course for healthy waters and inspiring people to take action for nature. One of the specific goals of the campaign is to create universally accessible trails on land managed by the conservancy, with a focus on Manchester and Ossipee. The Pine Barrens Preserve trail represents the first accessibility project funded through the campaign.
The Nature Conservancy has spent more than six decades protecting nature for the benefit of people and wildlife. In New Hampshire, this includes helping protect more than 280,000 acres of the state’s most important natural landscapes.
The conservancy has led the way in rebuilding oyster reefs and restoring floodplains and has collaborated with business leaders, communities and legislators to develop innovative solutions to New Hampshire’s biggest environmental challenges. To support the Future of Nature campaign, go to nature.org/nhfuture or contact Susie Hackler at (603) 224-5853.