Last year, TNC colleagues worked closely with public transit providers and local BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, disability, and Senior communities to expand universal access to Manchester Cedar Swamp in New Hampshire’s largest and most diverse city. Transparency was key in the process, which involved six community-led listening sessions to ensure inclusion and accessibility by people of all ability and fluency levels in TNC’s approach to marketing, signage, and other project elements.
“By engaging new and existing partners, listening and learning from them, and respecting and accommodating their input, we have created something that resonates and is actively being used by a very broad audience.”
— Joanne Glode, Stewardship Ecologist, TNC New Hampshire
Stewardship Ecologist, TNC Southern New Hampshire
Joanne Glode has worked with TNC since 2003, most recently serving as the primary project manager for the All Persons Trail at Manchester Cedar Swamp. Joanne manages 15 nature preserves throughout the state, where she focuses on salt marsh restoration and climate adaptation activities, volunteer engagement, invasive species management, and trail maintenance.
I have always felt comfortable and happy outside in nature, and am so grateful for the trees, plants, bugs, and diversity that nature provides. I have always kept what’s best for the plants and animals that call our landscapes home in the forefront of my work for TNC, and love introducing folks to the wonders of nature.
Sheila, TNC New Hampshire’s Community Partnership Manager, introduced our All Person’s Trail project team to some amazing and inspiring partners who shared with us, through community listening sessions, the struggles and barriers they have feeling comfortable or accessing outdoor spaces. It is frankly heartbreaking for me to think of individuals in my community not feeling the same comfort and ease in nature as I’ve always taken for granted. As a person motivated by problem solving, I was grateful for the partner input that helped us integrate intentional, but in the grand scheme of the project, rather small tweaks to our trail plan. Their input allowed us to be more inclusive and bring happiness, ease, and a sense of belonging in nature to individuals who made it clear to us that they had not felt heard or included in these spaces before.
Our Chapter started learning together about some of the ways we can be more inclusive and equitable in our work around the same time as we began the All Persons Trail team. It was motivating to both be learning together, and meeting with the community partners Sheila was connecting with to discuss the trail build early and often. It made the learning we were doing very real, and the impact the trail could have on people very tangible. By engaging our partners, listening and learning from them, and respecting and accommodating their input, we have created something that does resonate and is actively being used by a very broad audience.
There’s a lot of interest within TNC and within other land conservation organizations in our region to build more universally accessible trails out in nature. We were getting phone calls and emails from a lot of other Chapter staff, land stewards, and fundraisers, looking to learn from our process.
Because of this, we developed a Guidebook to Building the Manchester Cedar Swamp All Persons Trail. This guide book has been used and requested by so many, and already inspired a number of new trails that are in the works. Being able to share our knowledge and process and know that we’re helping others to put accessible trails on the ground makes me feel really hopeful. We don’t claim to have a perfect process and we understand every community is different so there should not be one cookie-cutter approach to engaging individuals with our work. We put together guidebook to simply share what we learned in hopes that even a portion of it could be helpful and make nature more accessible.