Conservation teams elevating funds to construct accessible outside recreation path in Brunswick


A new hiking trail that has been made more accessible for the elderly, children and people with disabilities could soon be in the works at Woodward Point in Braunschweig.

The project, organized by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, would provide an approximately half a mile long pathway suitable for wheelchairs, strollers and walking aids.

In the past few weeks, a fundraising campaign of US $ 132,000 has been launched for the development of the path and the construction of the necessary infrastructure in the parking lot.

Construction will begin in the spring of 2022 if the fundraising goal is met, according to Seth Levy of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. To date, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust has raised $ 3,570.

“In general, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust recognized that there was no accessible route to the people of the state of Maine,” said Caitlin Gerber, the organization’s regional steward. “With more older people in the community and many young families with young children who can’t really climb up and down a rocky path, we’ve been hearing loud and clear for a few years now that there really is a need for this type of path.”

The 5 to 6 foot wide path would wrap around a field and would be the first of its kind developed by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust in the area. The trail would be built to a standard set out by the US Forest Service’s accessibility guidelines.

“In effect, that means the path is free of obstacles, roots and stones,” said Levy. “It will have a very low incline and slope, so it will be level and flat and made of a durable surface.”

The field at Woodward Point in Brunswick where the accessible path is located. Courtesy of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust

According to a 2018 study by the Population Reference Bureau, Maine has the oldest population in the United States, at 20.6% of the population over 65.

In addition, according to the Center for Disease Control, 340,215 adults in Maine have a disability. Statistca, a website that compiles data on global trends, states that Maine had the fourth highest percentage of people with a disability in 2019 at 16.9%.

The Androscoggin River Path, portions of the Brunswick Landing network, Bay Bridge Landing, and portions of the Brunswick Town Commons are examples of other accessible trails in the city, according to Maine By Foot, a local walking guide compiled by a West Bath resident .

Mary Hepburn, a member of the People Plus senior center in Braunschweig, said that she has around 20 members in the outing club, which she coordinates through the organization. The club organizes hikes on various trails along the Midcoast on Wednesday mornings.

“We take it slowly but surely and enjoy being outdoors for an hour or two,” said Hepburn. “Aside from the obvious value of much-needed exercise, I find that many people in this group rely on this as a social outlet.”

Hepburn said the group frequently visits the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust for walking, and they said they support more accessible hiking trails in the area, especially if they are within walking distance of the city center. “Everything in terms of adventure and discovery,” added Hepburn.

Joan Reynolds, who lives in Braunschweig and lives in a local senior housing estate, said she was positive about the site at Woodward Point and the possibility of expanding the access even further.

“Lots of walks are challenging and not for everyone,” Reynolds said. “I think Woodward Point is a very friendly, easy, and beautiful walk.”

The Woodward Point site was originally converted into a field for pasture. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust acquired the land in 2019.

In April, The Times Record reported that the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust was also raising funds to improve accessible hiking trails.

Other examples of Maine Coast Heritage Trust trails throughout Maine that offer expanded access include Bog Brook Cove in Cutler and Milbridge Commons in Milbridge.

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