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Sensory Paved Trail in Cook Forest State Park: Opening Access to Nature to Everyone

I am deeply passionate about expanding access to nature for as many people as possible. In the field I work in, I often see families that are unable to take their children with exceptionalities out to experience nature because often there is little to no focus in public planning when it comes to this. These are families that need this kind of escape as much as anyone else. In recent years, there has been a great emphasis upon expanding access to nature for all. My two favorite examples of this within the state have been in Erie at Asbury Woods, where they have created an entire boardwalk through a stunning forest area, and at Presque Isle State Park where they have opened up a beach that is ADA accessible. 

While this is not really possible to do in an area with steep hills like the Forest Cathedral in Cook Forest State Park, up at the top of the ridge in the park, in a flatter section of woods, they have fixed and improved a trail that was initially built for that purpose. 

The trail had fallen into a dilapidated state and been cratered and covered with slippery moss. A joint effort has greatly improved the trail by resurfacing it (albeit still having some rutting due to the pavement being aged) widening it with crushed stone, adding cables along the edges to help keep people centered on the trail, putting interpretive signs up with raised letters and braille that explain certain phenomena along the trail and within the park, and adding ample benches for sitting space. 
They did their best to utilize the infrastructure that was there and bolstered it. Thanks to this effort, the trail is now accessible to many more people. Everyone should have the right to be able to enjoy public lands in the outdoors for relaxation, healing, personal growth, and bonding with the people in their lives. 
There was also a period in time where I dealt with an injury and was unable to access the outdoors and hiking for more than a year. The perspective I gained in that was in just how cast out one can feel when the things that you love are completely unaccessible to you. 
Nature already took out one of the new benches
The isolation that I felt was tremendous, and that was only temporary for me. Knowing that empowering and empathetic driven efforts like this help bring comfort to people who deal with that situation is something that I am incredibly grateful for. I hope to continue to see this trend of enhancing access to nature for all to continue. 

I am so glad that this effort has been made to open up access to this bucolic landscape to more people. The trail is located up past the Sawmill Center for the Performing Arts, at the every end of that road. You cannot miss it. The trail is a quarter mile long. 

We highly recommend everyone check out this trail and encourage your local public park facilities to place a strong emphasis on access for all to nature. For more info about exploring Cook Forest State Park, check out our recreational guide on it

GPS Coordinates to Trailhead and parking:

41.35242, -79.22137


1 comment :

  1. While not mentioned in this post, and barely visible in the second picture-the Friends of Cook Forest are the ones who spearheaded this idea and raised the funds to make it happen. We are happy to provide any additional info. And rest assured-we are in the process of have 2 (yes 2, another tree fell in the forest!) benches. We are just awaiting their delivery. Please visit us to see whet else we are doing (as of 9/23 we are currently raising funds to replace the playground at Ridge Camp-which will be inclusive) friendsofcookforest.org


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