Trail For People With Disabilities Opens at Nags Head Woods

by: Debbie Crane 8/19/11

The people in wheelchairs, older people with mobility issues and families with young children in strollers who will enjoy a new trail at Nags Head Woods will probably never have the chance to meet Ed Mays. But, without Mays who wrote letters and met with people from different organizations to help secure support and funding, there would be no trail for them to enjoy.
This process began about four years ago. Mays, who lives in nearby Nags Head Pond, is an avid hunter. He is also president of North Carolina Handicapped Sportsmen, which helps people with disabilities hunt and fish. He was perplexed that the Conservancy had opened up its refuge for an annual deer hunting season, but people like him in wheelchairs couldn’t participate.
So, he met with the Conservancy’s Aaron McCall to talk about disabled bow hunters having access. McCall began working on the trail, which opened in June. The mile-long trail winds around an interdunal freshwater pond and through a maritime swamp forest with an overlook of a brackish marsh system.
“This may have started out to help handicapped sportsmen now it is much more,” explains Mays. NCHS is working with a lot of different organizations and individuals. Groups like North Carolina Nature Conservancy, The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, The NC Triangle Chapter SCI, The Muscular Dystrophy Association, children with Cerebral Palsy and the North Carolina Spinal Cord Association.
“Then there are retiring baby boomers--that’s a growing segment,” he adds. “In the future, there is going to be an increased need for accessible trails overall.” And, it certainly isn’t all about hunting. “Can you imagine a disabled child who has never seen a maritime forest or a swamp, seeing it for the first time?” It’s a great chance for many different organizations and individuals to enjoy a unique habitat and home to over 300 plant species, some of which are classified as rare.
Construction of the trail was made possible by a $100,000 grant from Dominion Energy, an $84,318 grant from the Dare County Tourism Board, $7,350 from the Outer Banks Community Foundation and $1,000 from the Kiwanis Club of the Outer Banks and North Banks Rotary Club.
McCall says the trail wouldn’t have occurred without support from the Town of Kill Devil Hills. Town property, which had formerly housed infrastructure for wastewater treatment, is part of the trail. “The town was very supportive – very understanding of the process, allowing us three years to raise money. At no point did they second guess the project. There were 100 percent supportive.”
Mays praises McCall’s work. “This is about Aaron, he made this happen.”
Mays hopes that other property owners will follow The Nature Conservancy’s example. “There is no red. There is no blue. There is no political fight about creating access,” he says. “It is just the right thing to do.”