Gravel, not grass, help move things along at revamped Audubon Society trail 

  • Marc Nutter takes James Piet and Pat Vincent-Piet for a test of the new All Persons Trail at Silk Farm. Courtesy of Parker Schuerman

  • T. Parker Schuerman, the director of lands and ecological development for the New Hampshire Audubon Society (left), and Marc Nutter, the Society’s Conservation Director, walk along the half-mile trail on the grounds of the society on Thursday, October 13, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 10/13/2022 5:53:59 PM

When local Audubon Society leaders say come one, come all, they mean it.

In this case, they changed the surface of an existing trail – from a grassy path to one with a crushed stone-dust covering – which made all the difference, allowing wheelchairs and other assisting devices to move with less effort and more traction.

The society’s renovated trail officially opens on Saturday at its headquarters at 84 Silk Farm Road. A hike starts at 9 a.m. Unofficially, Marc Nutter, the Society’s Conservation Director, says people have been discovering this new landscape since August.

“It’s awesome to see people organically find it,” Nutter said. “You have people walking the trail and saying that they like that trail anyway.”

Nutter said work began in July and was completed in six weeks. He said the nature trail’s identification morphed from an accessible trail to an all-person’s trail.

He and T. Parker Schuerman, the director of lands and ecological development, highlighted the trail’s new surface. “It is like a soft sidewalk through nature,” Schuerman explained. “Like most, the New Hampshire Audubon Society is trying to balance a natural habitat with some type of outdoor recreation.”

Logic told the organization’s leaders that a grassy floor was not the best way to travel, for anyone using a walker, wheels, or a cane.

Once the grass was removed, officials, led by Lew Shelley, the designer and builder of the trail, covered the dirt with black fabric, the kind seen at construction sites.

The material stops weeds from popping up on the trail and peeking through the rocky gravel. It also helps prevent erosion.

Next, about a half-foot of gravel and stone dust was placed atop the fabric, and that, the Society says, makes all the difference when navigating on wet or dry days.

“The new trail is gravelly compacted stone and will have better water management,” Nutter said. “The way it was before, the lawn gets soaked and softens up wet, and you don’t want to walk on it. No wheelchair could move if it wanted to.”

The new surface is compact and offers good grip,

“Now you can use a wheelchair, even if it’s raining. And when it stops, the surface will dry out for that afternoon,” Nutter said.

Before opening the trail, neighbors were asked to walk it and give their opinions. That test showed that mobility on a rocky floor was far superior to grass, giving the Audubon confidence that the new surface could be enjoyed by all, including those in wheelchairs, those who need arm braces, and others who require walking sticks.

“Most people were pleasantly surprised to see the improvements,” Nutter said. “They already know from walking it and they love it.

“I met a guy walking with two arm braces. He would walk each week when it was a grass path and he was so jazzed that now it’s a little easier to move and your feet don’t get wet.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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