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Autism Nature Trail opens at Letchworth State Park, first of its kind in the United States

Posted at 1:04 PM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 13:04:56-04

PERRY, N.Y. (WKBW) — More than four years in the making, the nation's first nature trail designed specifically for people with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is now open at Letchworth State Park.

The trail was created with the help of more than $3.3 million in private fundraising, including custom handmade benches auctioned off to the public.

The trail is designed to encourage sensory perception and integration, using nature and natural materials. According to a news release from Governor Kathy Hochul, the Autism Nature Trail includes the following:

  • Sensory Station, where a collection of leaves, moss, fossils, animal fur, acorns and other objects are to be touched, handled, and even smelled;
  • Sunshine Slope, a gentle maze in an opening that includes a viewing platform, three cuddle swings, and an "Alone Zone;"
  • Music Circle, where a variety of nature-inspired musical instruments encourage creativity, either alone or with others;
  • Curiosity Corner, an open space with a gliding seat, ant-shaped boulders, and access to a shortcut back to the beginning of the trail;
  • Reflection Knoll, a quiet point halfway on the trail under a canopy of trees, with etchings of woodland creatures hidden in the boulders;
  • Meadow Run and Climb, a place with paths to run, jump and balance along serpentine berms and an obstacle course;
  • Design Zone, where visitors can manipulate materials from along the trail into patterns and structures;
  • Playful Path, a place of twisting paths with different surfaces including coarse gravel, log rounds, and sand;
  • The Nook, an area of carefully spaced seating set under a natural canopy;
  • The Celebration Station, as the final stop on the trail, this area has a place for visitors to express themselves through writing and drawing about their experiences on the trail.

Visitors to Letchworth State Park can find the trail near the Humphrey Nature Center. It is close to parking and restrooms.

Fundraising will continue for programming at the trail through the Natural Heritage Trust. Anyone interested can donate to the Trust here.