PAUL SMITHS - The Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smiths will debut a groundbreaking environmental education program on Saturday, May 23, offering the first trail walk in the Agency's history designed for the visually impaired.
The Sensory Walk, to be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m., will be available for people who are visually impaired and for people with full eyesight.
A VIC naturalist and a board member from the North Country Association for the Visually Impaired will lead a trail walk on the Barnum Brook Trail, targeting textures, smells and sounds of the forest. Blindfolds will be provided for those with full eyesight capabilities.
"Environmental education opportunities for the visually impaired are limited in New York, yet the need remains to offer programs with universal access," said Paul Smiths VIC Director Mike Brennan. "For the past 20 years, the New York State Adirondack Park Agency has taken the lead to ensure its interpretive facilities are accessible to residents and visitors with a variety of challenges. We are proud to offer our new Sensory Walk as part of this ongoing commitment."
VIC Environmental Educator Milt Adams began developing the Sensory Walk shortly after New York Gov. David A. Paterson took the oath of office in March 2008. Paterson is New York's first legally blind governor.
"We are trying something brand new for us: experiencing the trail without the sense of sight," said Adams, who will be leading the trip. "Vision is our strongest sense, and it usually overpowers the other senses. During this walk, we will focus on sensory awareness, and we will attempt to heighten the senses of smell, touch and hearing."
Adams will be assisted by Shelly Bamrick, of Saranac Lake, who is on the Board of Directors for the North Country Association for the Visually Impaired, serving Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties. She is also a former independent living specialist.
The Barnum Brook Trail is a 0.8-mile loop designed to be accessible to those in wheelchairs, with assistance. The trail passes through a second-growth forest to a pair of overlooks on the Heron Marsh and then follows the Barnum Brook through a riparian woodland on a boardwalk.
After crossing a fish barrier dam, visitors return through an impressive stand of white pines. The hard, smooth surface of this easy-access trail is suitable for people of all ages and abilities.
Animals that may be heard during the Sensory Walk include: red-winged blackbirds, river otter, frogs, broad-winged hawks, red squirrels, chipmunks, and a variety of ducks, warblers and woodpeckers.
Preregistration is required for this program by calling the Paul Smiths VIC at 327-3000. Admission is free.