AccessNatureNJ.org is Now Available!
A mobile-friendly website making it easier to find accessible nature spots in South Jersey
By Carleton MontgomeryOctober 18, 2022
Pinelands Preservation Alliance made a commitment starting in 2020 to work with people with disabilities to make natural places more accessible, spread information about accessible trails, and create inclusive guided trips for the public. Since then, we’ve been making new friends and viewing the natural world from a new perspective.
One big part of this project is to create a mobile-friendly website that will show people where they can find trails and scenic places in and around the Pinelands that are, at least to some degree, accessible. Today we are launching that website: AccessNatureNJ.org.
We understand this website is only truly useful if it provides enough reliable information for people with different kinds of disabilities to be able to make plans and have great experiences when they use it. We are trying to meet that high standard, but it will take time to get it all right!
Through our conversations with people with disabilities and their allies, we learned that accessibility means different things to different people. Most of the trails we list on the website are not paved. Most are either well-maintained sand roads or trails that are sufficiently flat and compact that a person using a wheelchair, walker or cane can use the trail in comfort and safety. There are some routes that one can drive along and enjoy in a regular car.
Sometimes equipment can also be an important issue. Few people have wheelchairs designed for trails, so people may worry that a given trail won’t work for their wheelchairs. We try to indicate whether a trail is well-maintained with compacted soil and fine gravel, so a person using a “regular” non-motorized wheelchair can safely navigate the trail. We are also working on creating a fleet of trail-ready wheelchairs that people can borrow on one of our guided trips.
There is a lot of work to be done to create more trails that are more accessible for more people. For example, none of the trails we have found so far have handrails on their entire length, and none have signs in braille. We hope to encourage and help land managers to create better facilities going forward.
We are trying to include detailed information on the state of each trail, the parking situation, whether restrooms are available and accessible, whether there are signs that can be read from a wheelchair, and so on. But our information may not always be as complete as we think it is, or the situation in a particular area might change without our realizing it. We also haven’t gotten everywhere to find all the accessible sites. So, we are hoping that everyone who uses the website will also let us know about their experience with it – the good, the bad, and the it-could-be-better. If you have feedback or ideas for improvement, please contact one of us with the information below.
Carleton Montgomery, email@example.com
Jason Howell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a list of some accessible trails that we recommend to get you started!
“This initiative was funded (or funded in part) by an Inclusive Healthy Communities Grant from the Division of Disability Services, New Jersey Department of Human Services.”