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Group mulls Rail Trail options

Fixes must meet strict ADA guidelines

A view of the Rail Trail. It is currently being adapted to fit Americans with Disabilities guidelines. (click for larger version)
March 06, 2011
SOUTHBRIDGE — Although the Rail Trail doesn't get as much use in the winter, that doesn't mean it's forgotten about.

In fact, town officials are working on making it more accessible for everyone.

Although visions of bicycles and hiking boots may be the first things to come to mind when thinking of the trail, a part of the trail is approved by the Americans with Disabilities Association (ADA).

"Basically, to make ADA requirements, it's kind of tough," said Scott Benoit, vice president of the Grand Trunk Trailblazers and advocate of the trail. "The rules were never fully formalized for trails, even though they had to meet them. Essentially, anything with federal money or federal land has to meet with ADA requirements. They mainly have to do with slope and not having roots or rocks sticking up and trails having to be a certain width."

In certain sections of the Sturbridge part of the trail that meet ADA requirements, a specific cross-slope has to be kept a specific way and inclines can only be a certain amount. In basic terms, Benoit said the easiest way to think about accessibility is that a wheelchair has to be able to travel the trail without a problem. Nothing with a motor is allowed on the trails, so only hand-pushed wheelchairs are allowed on.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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