South Lookout Trail at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
By Bob Amelio
Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living
Twenty-seven years ago, before I had a spinal cord injury, I was able to climb Hawk Mountain Sanctuary to the scenic South Lookout. However, due to a very steep trail to the Lookout, after my injury I was unable to make the climb in my wheelchair.
During a visit I talked to the land manager and offered Client Assistance Program (CAP) assistance with the trail design, which had been in the planning process for well over two years. We gave recommendations for trail surface, grades, bench design, rest areas, signage, crosswalks, and restrooms, which made the amenities accessible to all people.
In 2015, Hawk Mountain opened a first-ever accessible trail to the South Lookout. The restrooms are also fully accessible. The trail exceeds the U.S Forest Service accessibility guidelines. The trail is truly accessible to all people with disabilities. The trail is less than eight percent in grade, and is firm, stable, and slip-resistant. There are flat landings every 100 feet with accessible benches for seating. There is at least a four-inch stone border on both sides of the trail to keep wheelchair casters from going off the trail. Those people with visual impairments are also able to follow the borders with a cane and climb the trail independently.
I attended the standing room-only grand opening, which had people with all kinds of disabilities and those without disabilities enjoying the trail. The one thing all people had in common was their smiles when they reached the Lookout.