New Autism Nature Trail opens at Letchworth State Park


CASTILE, N.Y. (WROC) — There’s a new way for members of the autism community and their families to connect with nature at one of New York’s most popular parks.

The new Autism Nature Trail (ANT) officially opened Friday at Letchworth State Park. The trail has been years in the making, with planning beginning back in 2017.

The public-private partnership “provides a recreational Trail within the Park designed to allow visitors with autism and other developmental disabilities to push boundaries, explore new activities and develop skills.”

According to officials from the governor’s office, it’s the first trail in the country designed specifically for those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.

“New York State is leading the nation in creating this public trail purposefully designed to bring the benefits of the outdoors to those on the autism disorder spectrum and their families,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “State Parks should be accessible to everyone, and this is a welcoming and inclusive place for an underserved community.”

The $3.7 million project, supported by more than $3.3 million in private fundraising, includes:

  • 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.

Officials scheduled a grand opening event for the trail at 11 a.m. Friday.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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