By Gene Myers
Kirk Bauer won’t let his limited mobility stop him from hiking. A battle wound ledto the amputation of one of the Vietnam veteran’s legs above the knee.
“Trail hiking is very accessible for people with disabilities,” Bauer, director of Disabled Sports USA, said.
He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to prove that point.
Before wheelchair user Charles Dodge, social recreation coordinator at the Alliance Center for Independence in Edison, hits the trail, he learns about its surface.
“If I am going to be camping or spending the day, I look for what kind of terrain is the trail,” he said. “Is it gravel? Is it grass? Hard-packed dirt or paved?”
Also, consider the incline. Choose trails near train tracks and bike paths, because these are both engineered to sit on flatter ground.
“Look for rails-to-trails and canals and bike trails,” Bauer said. “They often have accessible areas. Surfaces on these trails are usually hard-packed and have a low-grade incline.”
Lastly, don’t forget, nature sometimes calls when you are out on the trails. Make sure there’s an accessible portable toilet on hand.
DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst has a few options for individuals with limited mobility, said Brian Aberback, public information officer for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.
“We have several accessible trails. The most popular one is called the Marsh Discovery Trail,” Aberback said. It features a boardwalk that loops over the marsh.
“It has a railing and it’s wide enough for wheelchairs,” he said.
The Lyndhurst Nature Reserve and the Transco Trail are also accessible. “They are very flat and not rocky,” he said.
DeKorte Park is a birding hot spot. Shorebirds, ducks and hawks frequently fly overhead. The landscaped park features hundreds of native plants and flowers, and the New York City skyline can be seen from all of its trails.
Dodge likes the Great Swamp because it has a boardwalk that is easy to roll over. It winds through wooded areas and has observatories for wildlife viewing.
Clyde Potts Reservoir’s park encompasses 650 acres of Mendham Township, and 350 acres sit within Randolph’s borders. This protected watershed property provides drinking water to a number of towns. It’s located south of Sussex Turnpike on Old Brookside Road. Parking is available.
For a list of other accessible trails, checkout Traillink.com. The site is maintained by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that maintains a network of trails. It curates a list of accessible trails across the state.
Gene Myers is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com.
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