In the fall of 2019, Portland Trails made significant upgrades to a trail in Canco Woods to create the first wheelchair-accessible forested trail in Portland. With support from the City and generous funding from an AARP Community Challenge grant, Portland Trails’ trail crew and volunteers upgraded the existing loop trail by widening, smoothing, and hardening the trail surface, installing two park benches, and improving signage. These upgrades are intended to directly benefit the neighbors of Canco Woods, particularly the residents of two senior living facilities adjacent to the trail, Birchwoods and Woods at Canco.
For several years, Jaime Parker, the Trails Manager for Portland Trails, has led residents on walks through Canco Woods. Residents began sharing their ideas about how to make the trail more accessible for people with limited mobility, such as smoother terrain, wider footbridges, and more seating, and Parker got to work developing a plan to make it a reality. Just before trail work began, Parker presented his plan to residents from both living facilities and asked for their feedback, sparking a continued conversation about accessibility. This type of collaboration with community members is fundamental to Portland Trails’ democratic trail-building process.
“After meeting with folks living at the senior housing, we knew that there were people who would directly benefit from the work we were doing,” says Parker. “We want folks who live right next door to be able to enjoy it with whatever level of mobility they may have.”
This loop trail is Portland’s first wheelchair-accessible trail through a forested area, an achievement that fits with the City of Portland’s and Portland Trails’ missions to make Portland a more inclusive place for all residents. This improved trail will also better serve people with strollers, walkers, canes, and other mobility needs.
“We are so glad to see these accessibility improvements to the trails at Canco Woods,” said Portland’s Deputy Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities, Ethan Hipple. “Thanks to the hard work of Portland Trails and support from AARP, people of all ages and abilities can now enjoy this hidden gem of open space in Portland. Canco Woods is home to a small pond, wetlands, pine groves, over 120 species of birds, and a loop trail network that lets you see it all. And thanks to this project, more people of all abilities will be able to enjoy it.”
Canco Woods is a City of Portland Land Bank property. Portland Trails has a conservation easement on the land. Portland’s other wheelchair-accessible trails include the Eastern Promenade, Back Cove, and Bayside Trails. These are some of the city’s most-used trails.
About Portland Trails
Portland Trails transforms Greater Portland into a healthier community for people-powered transportation, conservation and recreation by creating and maintaining a network of trails and green spaces. Learn more at trails.org and join Portland Trails on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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Portland, Maine 04101