Proceedings of 2018 ASEE Northeast Section Conference

Trail of the Senses: An ADA Compliant Student Constructed Outdoor Nature Trail
Jessica Oriente

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law governing universal access that must be adhered to for all facilities used by the public.  Unfortunately, ADA compliant nature trails are fairly new and not available in most areas.  To combat this issue, the University of Maine (UMaine) Construction Engineering Technology (CET) Department partnered with Hirundo Wildlife Refuge (HWR), a 2400 nature preserve located 10 miles from UMaine’s campus.  Through their partnership, the UMaine CET senior students and HWR are constructing the Trail of the Senses, a little over a half mile ADA compliant universally accessible trail broken into three sections.  The ultimate goal of the Trail of the Senses is to maximize accessibility to nature while minimizing the negative effect on the environment, in order to provide better connections and experiences for all.  To date, Phase 1 and Phase 2 have been fully constructed, while the final stage will begin construction in the coming fall.  Phase 2, the Lac D’or trail, is the focus of this poster.  The Lac D’or trail is a quarter mile long, including paths across a berm, through woods, and culminating in an observation deck of a lake.  The observation deck was the focus of the design work for the project, and was designed by a civil engineering student who acted as the student project manager of Phase 2.  The deck is constructed of pressure treated timber in order to have a longer lifespan while withstanding the harsh elements of Maine weather.  The design of both the deck and ramp allow for two directions of pedestrian flow, with a turning area on the deck to account for the turning radius of a wheelchair.

Besides the physical design and construction of the project, a major focus was the importance of exposing students to community involvement prior to graduation.  For most students, the ability to use their specific skill sets of design and construction were applied to summer jobs or internships.  The design and construction of the Trail of the Senses, however, allowed for the students to see that their work positively directly influenced the lives of others.  Although technically the UMaine CET capstone is a required class, the hours contributed to the project by the students went far beyond the hours expected of a comparable credit class.  Lower level CET classes also contributed to the project by constructing benches which were placed throughout the trail.  The idea of using a senior capstone class as a real-life project has positive correlations between student involvement and the quality of student work produced.  When compared to an arbitrary project assigned simply for a grade, students who work on a real project are more likely to have true interest and produce a higher quality of work.  The partnership between the UMaine CET Department and HWR has only proved to be a positive one, and allows for students to see how their work is needed within their own community.

Last modified: 2018-04-27
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