New Willsboro trail to be wheelchair accessible

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WILLSBORO, N.Y. A new trail in Willsboro, New York will be wheelchair accessible.

Hiking and other outdoor adventures are a big draw for people in the Adirondacks. For people with limited mobility, exploring the wilderness isn't always easy, but that doesn't mean they don't enjoy it.

"I can walk outside with my walker, and like I said, I love the birds they saved my life," said Lucy Belzile of Willsboro.

A new trail will in Willsboro will be accessible to people with walkers and wheelchairs, and it will be just down the road from the Champlain Valley Senior Community. "The residents, they love nature. Even with dementia they can still enjoy the outdoors and the smells and the fragrances and the birds. It still resonates with people with dementia, and it's incredible," said Eli Schwartzberg, the senior facility's owner.

The trail goes through a nature preserve owned by the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. They began work on the trail in June. "Helping to coordinate with the trail crew and with the town, who are sort of co-managing this preserve a bit, and also working to coordinate volunteers to come help out with the crew," said Caroline Colan with The Nature Conservancy.

The nonprofit is spending nearly $200,000 to construct the trail according to federal Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines. Advocates say it's a huge deal, especially for kids with disabilities. "There's nothing worse than planning a trip with your family or with friends and then getting there and then finding out that someone can't participate," said Robert Poulin with the North Country Center for Independence.

The trail will have a compact layer of crushed stone on the ground so that wheels can easily roll over it. The total distance is around 1.5 miles.

"Most accessible trails are no more than a few hundred feet, or a quarter mile, so the fact that Willsboro has this big, long, accessible trail in it's backyard -- it's going to be able to serve the community really nice," said Ama Koenigshof, with Tahawus Trails LLC.

"There are not a lot of accessible areas into the forest in the Adirondacks, particularly on state lands there's not a lot of opportunities. Sometimes there are opportunities maybe just to a viewing platform, but this really allows people to get deep into the forest," said Connie Prickett with the Nature Conservancy.

The trail is expected to be complete later this fall, opening up the forest to people of all abilities.