A new hiking trail designed to be more accessible for older people, children and those with disabilities may soon be in the works at Woodward Point in Brunswick.

The project, organized by Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, would feature a roughly half mile trail that could accommodate wheelchairs, strollers and walkers.

Over the past few weeks, a $132,000 fundraising campaign was launched for the development of the trail and construction of necessary infrastructure in the parking lot.

According to Seth Levy of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, construction will begin in spring 2022 if the fundraising goal is met. So far, Maine Coast Heritage Trust has raised $3,570.

“In general, Maine Coast Heritage Trust has been aware that there is a lack of accessible trail available to people in the state of Maine,” Caitlin Gerber, the organization’s regional steward, said. “With more older folks in the community, and lots of young families with young children that can’t really scramble up and down a rocky trail, we’ve been hearing loud and clear for a number of years now that there is really a need for this type of trail.”

The 5- to 6-foot-wide path would loop around a field and be the first one of its kind developed by Maine Coast Heritage Trust in the region. The trail would be built to a standard set by the U.S. Forest Service trail accessibility guidelines.

“Practically that means the trail will be free of obstructions, roots and rocks,” Levy said. “It will be at a very low slope and grade, so it will be level and flat and it will be constructed of a durable surface.”

The field at Woodward Point in Brunswick where the accessible trail will be located. Courtesy of Maine Coast Heritage Trust

According to a 2018 study by the Population Reference Bureau, Maine has the oldest population in the US, with 20.6% of the population over the age of 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 as of 2019, Maine had the fourth highest population of individuals with a disability by percentage, at 16.9%.

The Androscoggin River Path, parts of the Brunswick Landing trail network, the Bay Bridge Landing and parts of Brunswick Town Commons are examples of other accessible trails in town, according to Maine By Foot, a local trail guide put together by a resident of West Bath.

Mary Hepburn, a member of the People Plus senior center in Brunswick, said that she there are about 20 members in the Outing Club that she coordinates through the organization. The club hosts walks on Wednesday mornings on different trails throughout the Midcoast.

“We go slowly but surely and enjoy being outdoors for an hour or two,” Hepburn said. “Besides the obvious value of getting much needed exercise, I find that a lot of people in this group rely on this for a social outlet.”

Hepburn said that the group frequently visits the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust for walks, and she said supports more accessible trails in the area, specifically if they are in walking distance of downtown. “It’s all in the spirit of adventure and discovery,” Hepburn added.

Brunswick resident Joan Reynolds, who lives in a local retirement community, spoke favorably of the terrain at Woodward Point and the possibility of expanding its access even further.

“A lot of the walks around are a challenge, and they’re not for everybody,” Reynolds said. “I think Woodward Point is a very friendly, easy, nice walk.”

The location at Woodward Point was originally turned to a field for cattle grazing. Maine Coast Heritage Trust acquired the land in 2019.

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

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

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