At a recent funeral, several community members told me that, although they could no longer hike due to mobility limitations, they really enjoyed our Footpaths blog, and especially the photographs, which brought back fond memories of their times spent out in nature.
That got me pondering about taking the time to find some quality “all persons” trails and episodically featuring them on Footpathsblog.com. Hopefully encouraging some, who felt that they could no longer hike, to pursue these less challenging and less risky outdoor experiences, bringing joy and adding to the quality of their lives.
“All persons” trails are designed to allow people of lessened mobility or stamina to safely ambulate in natural areas. They are constructed of cement, asphalt, or boardwalks, are generally of shorter length, and have minimal grade changes. Historically they were not typically meant for bicycling, but with well designed broader paths and conscientious bicyclists, the more modern shared pathways can be safe and are increasingly common.
These thoughts led us to Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve and its well known “all persons” asphalt path, the Pin Oak Trail.
We arrived at 9 AM on a beautiful but warm July morning. Despite the heat and humidity, the parking lot was well utilized. The partially shaded lot abuts an 1830’s farmhouse and a well maintained antique barn, and the campus features sidewalks winding through an inviting cottage garden.
The Pin Oak Trail starts at a pocket butterfly garden placed within a young wood.
This garden is bisected by flat mulched paths, allowing us to study the diverse plant collection. As we did so we we became aware of the numerous patrons utilizing the trail. While the asphalt trail skirts the perimeter of the garden, walkers have good visualization of the floral display.
Gray-headed Coneflower, Garden Phlox, Bergamot Bee Balm, Partridge Pea
From here the asphalt path wove through some large trees including this large Black Walnut. Looking up from beneath the tree one appreciates the tree’s overall “architecture” and the fern like pattern of its leaves.
Although the preserve’s 25 acres are entirely landlocked by older Cincinnati suburban development, it remarkably has over 50 species of trees on the property and 50 species of birds have been catalogued there as well. It is truly an suburban oasis. Two less common trees that I saw were large Shingle and Willow Oaks in the woods.
As we ambled on, we continued to cross paths with folks of varying ages and mobility levels, all outgoing and enjoying their time exercising in nature. This included older couples and moms with young kids. Along the way we came across this 4 foot Eastern Ratsnake crossing the path. It feeds on small animals including rodents, frogs, and toads, by constricting so they can not breath and then swallowing them whole.
We saw him in the area of this pond.
Built into the trail system is a boardwalk that overlooks the pond and has gates that can open to allow viewing of the pond from a wheelchair.
The trail system here consists of the asphalt path but also has a couple of gravel trails that enter other sections of the preserve, including a mildly depressed creek valley. The gravel paths appear as open lines in the on trail map below.
These gravel paths are well maintained, and while not necessarily easily traversed with a wheel chair or walker, with assistance, many with milder mobility limitations would be able to enjoy them.
As noted on the above trail map, the asphalt path encircles a well developed prairie planting which hosts outstanding groups of wildflowers and grasses.
Scarlet Bee Balm – A favorite of hummingbirds. Its leaves were used as a tea substitute.
Slender Mountain Mint – has a spearmint scent when crushed.
Blazing Star (Liatris) – a prairie staple, here it was just starting to flower.
Rattlesnake Master – the flower heads turn bluish with maturity.
Ashy Sunflower – One of the earliest native sunflowers to bloom.
Some of the more interesting visitors to prairie are members of damselfly and dragonfly families, who are not there to act as pollinators, but rather to feed on the mosquitos, flies, caterpillars, and even bees that are there.
Common Whitetail Skimmer Dragonfly
Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly
Widow Skimmer Dragonfly
As we were nearing the completion of our hike we met Beatrice, a 71 year old woman who was traversing the path with a walker. I was excited to hear that she came there nearly everyday, weather permitting, in an effort to maintain her mobility and independence after developing congestive heart failure. Walking for exercise had always been a big part of her lifestyle and she is happy to have this trail relatively close to her home. She cherishes the “community” of walkers who she has come to know on her outings and enjoys the fresh air, the nature, the visiting dogs, and the conversations. When asked, she reported that her favorite thing is to look for frogs and turtles in the pond, and recalled the time a group of migratory ducks stopped by on their way north.
There are many people like Beatrice whose quality of life could be improved by having access to an “all persons” trail.
In summary, the “All Person” Pin Oak Trail delivered a much more engaging encounter than I anticipated when I planned this outing. We ended up spending 1.5 hours on this 0.6 mile trail, having the opportunity to study things up close in a somewhat compact presentation. The plant and tree diversity here was surprising. It was exciting to see so many folks of various ages and mobility levels utilizing the trail and obviously enjoying themselves. My hope is that some Footpaths followers will seek out other local “All Persons” trails in their communities for themselves, or mobility limited friends or family. I think that it would be an opportunity to enrich someone’s life.
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Photo credits to Peggy Juengling Burns.
Location – 12 miles north of downtown Cincinnati, but still in the city limits.
Parking – Large well maintained asphalt lot.
Facilities – In the Nature Center.
Trail Conditions – The majority is a asphalt trail in good shape. There are two side sections of well maintained gravel path.
Benches – many.
Kids – This is an ideal place to take kids as the terrain is flat. Numerous families with strollers use the area as well.
Dogs – Welcomed on a leash.
Suggested Paired Hikes – We paired it with a 1 mile hike at Mitchell Memorial Forest, another Hamilton County Park about 9 miles away.