“Rolltober” Debuts for People with Limited Mobility in The Last Green Valley

Enjoying the outdoors is something many people take for granted. At The Last Green Valley, Inc. (TLGV) we understand the trails, paths and boat launches throughout the National Heritage Corridor can be daunting for some. TLGV’s Universal Trails Assessment Team is changing that.

“This started as a grant project to figure out which boat launches in The Last Green Valley were accessible to people with mobility challenges,” said Lois Bruinooge, executive director of TLGV. “The all-volunteer Universal Trails Assessment Team has really expanded the effort to assess all kinds of trails. The work they’ve done is incredible and helps people know which trails, paths and boat launches are going to be accessible to them.”

The team — made up of Sandra Swale of Woodstock, Greg Stillman of Brooklyn, Virge Lorents of Killingly, Angela Kneeland of East Putnam and TLGV Office Coordinator Lyann Graff of Killingly — ­­spent 2016 assessing canoe and kayak launches in the National Heritage Corridor and 2017 hitting the trails.

To highlight their work and share information, the team has organized Rolltober, a Walktober event on Sept. 30, from 1-3 p.m., at the Air Line State Park Trail, Route 169 Trailhead in Pomfret, CT. The team will demonstrate the equipment it uses and discuss how mobility-challenged users, including disabled, elderly and even parents pushing strollers can select trails that will meet their personal interests, skills, abilities and expectations. The team will provide signage and information for trail segments already assessed so attendees can make their own informed decision about what trail to take to get outside and enjoy The Last Green Valley.

TLGV recently secured a second grant from the CT Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection that funded more advanced trails assessment equipment. The new equipment — one of only 37 units in the nation — will speed the assessment process and be showcased at the Rolltober event.

While the work will help many, the team’s efforts are very personal. Swale’s son, Gabe Sipson, suffered a debilitating accident on the job as a forester more than three years ago. His burning desire to get back outside into the beautiful locales of The Last Green Valley fueled Swale and the rest of the team.

“During the first year he wanted to get back into the woods. We didn’t even know where to go. I remember going down to the beach with him and there was a ramp, but in a wheelchair, it was so hard to navigate,” Swale said. “We ended up turning around to come home. We realized there was no information with anything on it for a disabled person.”

Sipson said “When I’m out in the forest, it makes me feel like, I don’t know what the best word is — calmer — and more centered with myself. I feel like maybe I’m more of a naturalist and things align better, and it makes sense. My perspectives are aligned better with what’s really important.”

The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor is the last stretch of dark night sky in the coastal sprawl between Boston and Washington, D.C.  The Last Green Valley, Inc. works for you in the National Heritage Corridor. Together we can care for it, enjoy it and pass it on!