Hawk Mountain opens Accessible Trail
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton, Pa, opened its first-ever Accessible Trail to its closest overlook on Sunday, July 26, following a standing-room-only dedication that coincided with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The kick-off culminated more than two years of planning by the professional staff, volunteers, and planning, accessibility, and land management experts to meet one glaring need: Hawk Mountain could not connect visitors with limited mobility to its big views of the Mountain and the migration. Despite the short walk to the closest lookout, the steep grade limited many. Such individuals often were either left at home or sat alone to wait inside the Sanctuary Visitor Center.
“The chance to watch for passing migrants from a Hawk Mountain lookout is the best way to spark an interest in nature and in raptors and it’s our job to connect as many people as possible with that experience,” says President Jerry Regan.
The work also is in direct response to visitor and member feedback.
“Our first donor on the project, Cyrus Klingsberg, hated that his wife could no longer accompany him on his visits, even to the South Lookout, which is so close to the parking area. As soon as he heard our plans he immediately offered his support,” says Regan.
Other donations came from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Berks County Commissioners through the Community Development Block Grant Program, the Schuylkill County Commissioners, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Family of Alfred A. Douglass III, and Cyrus Klingsberg in memory of his wife Vera Klingsberg.
The resulting Accessible Trail to South Lookout is now a new option that veers to the left just after passing through the trailhead “gate,” a welcoming area where volunteers greet members and other hikers. The new smooth pathway here is 900 feet long and six-foot-wide—enough for two wheelchairs to pass by one another—and bends in a wide, graceful arc through the forest.
Enhancements include benches for rest located every 100 feet, accessible trailside restrooms, upgrades to the Laurelwood Niche, a secluded area for education programs, and improvements at the South Lookout and its viewing platform.
“We worked hard to maintain a natural feel,” Regan says.
The trailhead entrance also has had refresher that includes dozens of native plantings, and new timber frame trailhead with wrought-iron raptor silhouettes. This area serves as the welcoming spot for visitors who paid their trail fee or members, but immediately beyond, offers two options on the walk to the South Lookout: the longer Accessible Trail that bends to the west or the original trail that offers a shorter but steeper climb. Combined, the two create a looped walk that families and others likely will enjoy as well.
Celebrating more than 80 years in raptor conservation, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is the world’s first refuge for birds of prey and an international center for raptor conservation. Its 2,500-acre Sanctuary is open to the public year-round and funds from membership dues and trail admission directly support its local-to-global research, training, and education programs. To learn more, visit www.hawkmountain.org or call 610-756-6961.
Features of the Accessible Trail:
- Six-foot-wide, smooth path with benches to rest along the way.
- The existing stone and earth viewing platform at South Lookout, which previously used wire cages to hold large retaining rocks, replaced with native stone from Hawk Mountain and with new bench seating.
- The original earthen trail to the South Lookout remains but has been repacked and graded during construction.
- Accessibility to the trailside restrooms stretches from the trail head entrance and also is ADA compliant.
- The Laurelwood Niche, a gathering area for education programs, also received an upgrade, is accessible, and connects to both the new trail and the existing trail.
- A new timber frame trail entrance compliments the same style recently added at the Native Plant Garden entrance.
- More than 200 native plantings improve the entrance and accent areas along the Accessible Trail.
- Following the Hawk Mountain Land Management Plan, all native plantings were removed prior to construction, stored, and replanted. Invasive species were removed.
- All workers on the project were required to complete wildlife sensitivity training with a strong focus on reducing the spread of invasive plants. Only those individuals who wore the training-complete sticker were allowed on the project site.
- Craig George, Director of Advancement: 610-756-6000 x208 or gro.niatnuomkwahnull@egroeg
- Jerry Regan, President, 610-756-6000 x213 or gro.niatnuomkwahnull@nager
- Bob Amelio, Accessibility Support Coordinator, Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living, who consulted on the project,
gro.licvlnull@oilemab 610-770-9781 ext. 111
- Media can always contact Mary Linkevich, any time, for story ideas, photo assistance and fact-checking.