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Mary Ruoff

Freelance writer Mary Ruoff of Belfast wrote the "Way Down East" chapter of Fodor's "Maine Coast" travel guide and has contributed Maine content to other Fodor's guides.

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Posted: August 26, 2016

Handicapped-accessible trails aren’t hard to come by in Maine’s parks and preserves

Written by: Mary Ruoff
At the top of Cadillac Mountain a wheelchair-accessible paved path leads to one of the summit's viewing platforms. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

At the top of Cadillac Mountain a wheelchair-accessible paved path leads to one of the summit’s viewing platforms.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Many Maine cities and towns have convenient, wheelchair-accessible, multi-use pathways, from Portland’s Back Cove Trail to Fort Kent’s Riverside Park Trail System. But away from town centers, wheelchair-accessible hiking trails are also abundant. There’s even one on Washington County’s rugged Bold Coast.

We’ve gathered information on this trail, as well as wheelchair-accessible hikes at Acadia National Park and state parks, plus online resources for handicapped-accessible multi-use paths in Maine. Some trails spotlighted here comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards; others don’t, but are level and smooth enough for most wheelchairs.

With rocky shores and soil and myriad mountains and hills, most Maine hiking trails will never accommodate wheelchairs. But the government and land trusts are committed to increasing the number that do. That benefits not only wheelchair users and others with mobility-limiting disabilities, but the elderly, families with young children and anyone out for an easy hike, perhaps with a less able-bodied loved one.

Acadia National Park

www.nps.gov/acad; Friends of Acadia, www.friendsofacadia.org

Maine’s only national park is one of the country’s most accessible, partly because of the carriage roads built in the first half of the last century. Given the mountainous terrain in the Mount Desert Island park, not all 45 miles of carriage roads are suitable for wheelchairs, and road conditions may limit access. Depart from Bubble Pond or Eagle Lake parking areas to get to the most wheelchair-friendly carriage roads; ask at the visitor’s center or check the park’s “Accessibility Guide” for route options (type “accessibility guide” in the search box on Acadia’s website; the guide has lots of information about accessibility, though some is out of date).

One of the most handicapped-accessible areas of the park is the Sieur de Monts section at the base of Dorr Mountain. South of downtown Bar Harbor, near the intersection of Park Loop Road and Route 3, is an ADA-compliant boardwalk, part of the Jesup Trail, that links hard-packed trails at Wild Gardens of Acadia with the 1.5-mile Hemlock Road. The road and garden trails don’t meet ADA standards, but many wheelchairs users can comfortably traverse them. Sieur de Monts Nature Center is handicapped accessible.

At the top of the park’s Cadillac Mountain, a short ADA-complaint path leads to one of the summit viewing platforms. Jordan Pond Nature Trail, a 1-mile loop near the popular park restaurant, Jordan Pond House, also meets ADA standards, as does about a half-mile along Ship Harbor Trail, which leads to a small cove. Trailhead parking is on Route 102A, near Seawall Campground, as is parking for the 1.4-mile round-trip on Wonderland Trail, which travels to a peninsular tip and is recommended for “adventurous and hardy” wheelchair users.

Maine State Parks

www.parksandlands.com

Most of Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands’ 48 state parks and historic sites have handicapped-accessible parking and bathrooms and a wheelchair-accessible path to the “primary feature of interest,” such as a beach or historic fort. Steep, rocky trails limit access at many parks, but several have trails or trail networks that are either ADA-compliant or accommodate most wheelchairs.

Range Pond State Park in Poland is Maine’s only completely handicapped-accessible state park. Its two miles of trails include a half-mile along the namesake pond. A smooth promenade runs along a beach with a “swimming transition dock” for wheelchair users. The park has two handicapped-accessible playgrounds (such playgrounds are also at Sebago Lake, Mount Blue, Damariscotta Lake, Lake St. George, Swan Lake, Moose Point, Lily Bay and Cobscook Bay state parks).

The handicapped-accessible White Pines Trail at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.

The handicapped-accessible White Pines Trail at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
Photo courtesy of Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands

At Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport, the ADA-compliant White Pines Trail, a three-quarter-mile round-trip, has interpretive panels and benches. The terminus on Casco Bay overlooks Googins Island, the site of an osprey nest. Guided nature programs are offered at the park throughout the year.

A paved overlook at Two Lights State Park allows people using wheelchairs to have access. Photo courtesy of Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands

A paved overlook at Two Lights State Park allows people using wheelchairs to have access.
Photo courtesy of Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands

ADA-compliant paths at the 43-acre Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth lead to dramatic bay and open ocean views from atop massive headlands of distinctive metamorphic rock.

Way Down East at Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec work is underway to make the Coast Guard Trail handicapped accessible. The first half-mile of the trail, which heads to a bluff with sweeping views of Passamaquoddy Bay looking toward Lubec village, can already accommodate most wheelchairs.

Moose Point State Park has more than a mile of easy trails, including Moose Trail, a half-mile path to the shore that isn’t ADA-complaint, but accommodates most wheelchairs. Other trails here will appeal to wheelchair users who can handle more challenging trails. At Ferry Beach State Park in Saco, a 1.2-mile trail network is suitable for most wheelchairs, and the long, flat, shaded access road has a few benches. Beach-accessible wheelchairs for handicapped visitors are available at most state park beaches, including this one.

All 12 state park campgrounds, except at Warren Island, have handicapped-accessible campsites. More are being added this year. The state’s general operations budget, as it did last fiscal year, has money for ADA-compliant improvements at state parks. In the past, such funds have come from bond issues.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust

www.mcht.org

 Bog Brook Cove Path LESLIE PUT EITHER Photo by + THE NAME OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER OR Photo Courtesy of xyv

The handicapped-accessible trail at Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s Bog Brook Cove Preserve on Washington County’s Bold Coast has a stone dust surface.
Photo courtesy of Maine Coast Heritage Trust

Bog Brook Cove Preserve

Rock outcroppings and cobblestone beaches accent long stretches of tree-topped cliffs along the undeveloped Bold Coast between Cutler and Lubec at the northern end of Maine’s coast. There’s great hiking at state and land trust preserves in this remote region but no shore road showcasing the views. At Maine Coast Heritage Trust’s 1,770-acre Bog Brook Cove Preserve off Route 191, one of five of its preserves in this area, an existing driveway made with fill was transformed into a handicapped-accessible trail. About a quarter-mile long, it passes through grassland en route to a promontory that overlooks a rocky beach and has outstanding views of Canada’s cliff-walled Grand Manan Island. This is the only ADA-complaint trail at any of the trust’s 100-plus preserves, but it’s eying sites for additional ones. Several of its lands have level paths or roads that can accommodate some wheelchairs, and it’s trying to improve accessibility where possible by adding features like parking lots with views.Androscoggin River Trail

Online Resources For Handicapped-Accessible Multi-Use Trails

The national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy lists wheelchair-accessible rail-trails by state on its web site, www.traillink.com (go to “Find Trails by Activity” at the bottom of the homepage). Though not up to date, the Maine Department of Transportation’s 2010 guide to bicycle/pedestrian trails has information on handicapped-accessible mult-iuse trails statewide (enter “bicycle and pedestrian trails” in the search box at www.maine.gov/mdot). Though “handicapped accessible” isn’t yet a search option at www.MaineTrailFinder.com, it has detailed information on trails of all sorts statewide.

 

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