(518) 792-3537 Queensbury • (518) 584-8202 Ballston Spa SAIL@SAILhelps.org

I was visiting Cape Cod in South Dennis, Massachusetts where I came across a nice park called The Johnny Kelly Recreational Area named for a man who would run marathons well into his early eighties. Included in this park, was a Braille Trail. The trail at first was built for fitness and then another feature was added. It could be used by people who are blind or seeing impaired. What makes it unique is that there is a metal wire covered with plastic along the entire length of the trail. The ground is very flat with very fine gravel. When a post is comes up, (as they frequently do to hold up the taut wire) a piece of tape is placed on the wire to warn the user to pick up his/her hand to get over the post. When there is a sign with Braille on it, a circular piece of Styrofoam is taped to the wire. It lets the user know that there is a sign just to the right of it. In Braille the signs say a number of things like “Smell the flowers planted just to the right of you and down” or “if you listen carefully you can hear this or that bird from here” or even “feel the roughness of the bark of the oak tree planted just to the left of you.” When I walked around the trail I closed my eyes and followed it. The first time was slow, but after that I was able to follow it faster and faster.

What normally happens with people who are blind is that they are forced to adapt to the environment around them and with this, the environment has been adapted for them. One could be alone with their thoughts in the woods by themselves. How very peaceful. I had such a powerful experience in the woods and I think that many can benefit from this. Nature can be so therapeutic and I think everyone should be able to enjoy it.

Now, up near Paul Smith’s College in the Long Lake area there is a totally accessible park named the John Dillon Park managed by Paul Smith’s College. It was the first fully accessible park in the entire United States. International Paper retired chairman, CEO, and Paul Smith College alumnus John Dillon wanted to make the Adirondacks accessible to everyone. The park has nine lean-tos that are fully accessible and they blend in with the natural environment. There is a mile-and-a-half trail to Handsome Pond, and at every site there are fully accessible outhouses with composting toilets. They have an electric pontoon boat and anyone can bring their own canoe or kayak.

For the grand opening of the park a man who is blind was able to enjoy the trails. He loved it so much, that he brought his friends and family back to enjoy it. He used his cane and was perfectly able to stay on the trail because when he didn’t feel the fine gravel under his feet, he knew he had strayed from the path.

The park is 4 miles north on Route 30 from the bridge in the village of Long Lake, on the right hand side of the road. If you want to learn more about the campground you may visit their website at http://www.paulsmiths.edu/johndillonpark/. The address is 2150 Tupper Rd. Long Lake, NY 12847 and the number is (518) 524-6226. If you like nature, you will love this place.

I was encouraged to see the Braille Trail in Massachusetts and was happy to hear that there is a fully accessible park within driving distance of where we are located. Everyone should enjoy the beauty and wonders of Mother Nature!