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Natick, MA

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2017

Project Category: Trails

Description: This community engagement initiative sought to identify solutions to allow older adults and people with mobility issues to use off-road trails in Natick. Project organizers met with town staff ahead of two focus groups with older adults, who shared their experiences with local trails. Additionally, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council created an online survey to collect more feedback. Older adults said their main concerns were access to bathrooms, personal safety, clear signage, availability of parking near trailheads, even walking surfaces and benches to sit on. MAPC then held a placemaking event at the Natick Community-Senior Center. Attendees could walk along a prototype trail with photos of planned upgrades and hear from MAPC staff. Participants also had a chance to share their personal stories about the things they've discovered while hiking. The result was a list of practical, low-cost action items the town can use to improve Natick's pathways.

Worcester, VT

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Trails

Description: Organizers with the Vermont River Conservancy wanted to allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the newly created North Branch Cascades Trail. To make the one-mile route accessible, they worked with a professional trail builder to make the path ADA-compliant. Additionally, VRC added amenities including benches, picnic tables and a privy. To help visitors navigate, they created trail maps and added wayfinding signs marking scenic overlooks and swimming holes along the trail. The improved trail has a gentle grade, which allows people who use wheelchairs to roll all the way to the river's edge. This is something many trails can't offer since river access often involves a scramble down a steep bank. Organizers say the North Branch Cascades Trail has since inspired conversations about how to increase accessibility at other hiking routes in the region.

Madison, WI

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2021

Project Category: Trails

Description: The spot where a popular pedestrian and bicycle path connects with Leopold Community School has needed repairs for years. The Cannonball Path's entrance was cracked and overgrown with weeds. To make the gateway to the path more welcoming, volunteers laid new concrete, planted native perennials alongside the path, added interpretive signage and installed solar lighting. New benches give people a space to sit and to appreciate the sculpture that adorns the trail entrance. The artwork depicts a fiddlehead fronds -- an homage to the local ecology. Today, the space gives educators the opportunity to teach students about local wildlife and also acts as a drop-off location for parents escorting their children to school. Project organizers say the improvements are part of community-wide efforts to give people more resting spaces along local trails.

Nearby AARP Community Challenge Projects

Hebron, NE

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2020

Project Category: Trails

Description: The walking trail along the Little Blue River on Hebron's south side is an important pedestrian artery, connecting an area hospital and wellness center with camping, outdoor sports and fitness facilities. To improve public safety and expand the hours when residents can use the path, Hebron installed solar-powered lights. The Thayer County Walking Coalition, a local advocacy group, has worked to convince local officials to improve the trail and promote its use. With their input, the City has increased the length of local trails by about two miles in recent years. Going forward, the coalition and City hope to install lighting along additional trail segments.

Fairbury, NE

AARP Community Challenge Grant Year: 2023

Project Category: Engaging residents in vibrant public places

Description: This project will upgrade a community center by adding an indoor walking track, internet connectivity and wireless devices to expand programing and provide a safe recreational space for older residents.

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