Princeton, NJ — July 30, 2020
When Greenway Meadows park was created and named in 2002, the former paved driveway to the General Robert Wood Johnson estate was repurposed to invite people of all abilities into this natural setting. From two Rosedale Road parking areas, visitors – including those using a cane, walker or wheelchair; parents with strollers; and bicyclists – are invited onto a paved trail to enter the beauty of the park. In summer, fields of wildflowers, full with butterflies in the day and fireflies at dusk, create an experience of being one with nature.
The national Land Trust Alliance [LTA] chose D&R Greenway, from land trusts throughout the country, to feature in their Summer 2020 Saving Land magazine article, “Interpreting the Land: Helping More People Benefit from Conservation.” D&R Greenway’s use of TravelStorys audio tours for Greenway Meadows and other preserves was showcased as a model for enabling broader access to nature. In addition to its Greenway Meadows tour, D&R Greenway has created tours for its St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell, and the Abbott Marshlands nearby Trenton for which a Spanish translation is available. The same article features land trusts in Michigan, Indiana, California and Montana, which have built boardwalks and ramps to difficult-to-reach locations, and some who have installed signage in Braille.
During the COVID pandemic, an important feature of D&R Greenway’s TravelStorys tours is that they can be viewed on the organization’s website from the comfort of one’s home. On hot days, or when safety requires staying home, viewers can still experience nature and whet their appetite for a future visit.
Recognizing D&R Greenway’s innovative work, the Land Trust Alliance article states, “When it comes to telling a preserve’s story, sometimes a sign isn’t enough. The story’s too complex, and many hikers would rather move than stand and read anyway. As one solution, the accredited D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton, New Jersey, turned to a device that hikers are rarely without: their smartphones.” Linda Mead, President and CEO of D&R Greenway is quoted, “Since you’re listening and not staring down at your phone, you can still look up while you walk.”
Trails provide Easy Access for Visitors with Canes, Walkers, Wheelchairs; & Parents with Strollers
One of the major current trends in providing public accessibility is the creation of new ways for people to experience nature, regardless of physical abilities. When D&R Greenway preserved the former Johnson estate, the nonprofit worked with the town of Princeton to plant colorful fields of native flowers to replace mowed lawn. The vision to create a beautiful community park was realized. More recently, D&R Greenway’s ‘Healing Trails’ audio tour creates a new way for people of all abilities to experience the park’s beauty, –using their Smartphones or accessing the park in privacy through their home computers.
Mead shares how the idea of accessibility became a larger part of the tour than originally planned. “I asked the Princeton Photography Club to partner with us by taking photos for our ‘Healing Trails’ tour at Greenway Meadows. Club member Sheila Geisler suggested we include the paved trail in the park as a location for GPS-based audio stories in order to accommodate a member’s husband’s wheelchair. She told me it was challenging to locate places where he can enjoy and learn about the outdoors. This opened up a whole new way of thinking for us about how to create interesting and accessible trails for all people, regardless of their abilities. It made for a better ‘Healing Trail’.”
LTA’s article highlighting accessibility concludes with the saga of Josephine Allen, who connected with D&R Greenway when it offered a TravelStorys demonstration event at the St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell, which she knows better than anyone: “She had been the last orphan at St. Michaels in 1973,” Mead says. “Although she’d never spoken in public before, we asked her to share her experiences at an event with 150 people. We laughed and we cried, and when she was finished, you could hear a pin drop. As a real estate agent, she now talks to landowners about conservation and has become one of our best volunteers.”
Click Here to view D&R Greenway’s TravelStorys tours and for links to download the TravelStorys app to your smartphone or tablet.
D&R Greenway Land Trust, an accredited nonprofit, has preserved close to 21,000 acres of land since 1989. By preserving land for life and creating public trails, it gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. The land trust’s preserved farms and community gardens provide local organic food for our neighbors—including those most in need. Through strategic land conservation and stewardship, it combats climate change, protect birds and wildlife, and ensure clean drinking water for future generations. D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center in Princeton is home to art galleries and presentations that celebrate the natural world and inspire a conservation ethic. D&R Greenway’s mission is centered in connecting land with people from all walks of life.
D&R Greenway Land Trust, One Preservation Place, Princeton NJ 08540 609.924.4646 is currently closed due to COVID-19.