Staff from The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire accept the 2019 Governor's Disability Award from Governor Chris Sununu.
A Great Honor Staff from The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire accept the 2019 Governor's Disability Award from Governor Chris Sununu. © Matt Cookson


NH TNC Receives Disability Award

Concord, NH

The New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Disability (GCD) honored The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire during the 2019 Governor’s Accessibility Award ceremony on Thursday, September 19 for the Conservancy’s recent completion of an accessible trail at the organization’s Ossipee Pine Barrens Preserve. Each year, individuals or organizations who have distinguished themselves through initiatives that embody the mission of the Americans with Disabilities Act, are chosen to receive this prestigious award.  

“When it comes to issues of accessibility and inclusion, the fact is that disability rights are human rights. Everyone has to take ownership of that, and all departments in the state have to take ownership of what they’re doing to instill that culture,” said Governor Chris Sununu.  

The Governor’s Accessibility Award reflects how far New Hampshire has come since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed 29 years ago. Award winners are chosen based on those who go above and beyond the basic-level ADA requirements to create a New Hampshire that’s accessible to all.  

“At The Nature Conservancy, we set lofty goals. An example of this is our recently announced $40 million fundraising campaign, ‘The Future of Nature.’ This campaign is the biggest private fundraising campaign for conservation in our state’s history. It’s taking us off the business-as-usual path and putting us on a more sustainable and inclusive future,” said Sheila Vargas, government and community relations manager at The Nature Conservancy. “The bigger part of this campaign is that it seeks to invest in amplifying the bond between people and nature by breaking down the barriers to getting outside.” 

Now, every citizen, including people with mobility challenges, can enjoy a peaceful woodland trail.

New Hampshire Governor's Commission on Disability

The Ossipee Pine Barrens Preserve is a 2,600-acre property with trails that explore one of the state’s most unique natural systems. Like most trails in New Hampshire, the Pine Barrens trails have unpredictable footing, exposed roots and varying trail widths making navigation difficult for people using wheelchairs or pushing strollers, for families exploring with young children, for grandparents—for anyone in need of more secure footing.

The new trail is comprised of sand and crushed gravel. Roots, large rocks and other obstacles have been removed, making it accessible to those who would have been challenged to hike there. The ¾ mile long trail ends at a platform overlooking the West Branch River.

“I walked the accessible trail, and it was truly great to see what The Nature Conservancy has done in making this trail accessible,” said Ellen Keith, GCD commission member. “Now, every citizen, including people with mobility challenges, can enjoy a peaceful woodland trail.”  

The Future of Nature campaign was created to enable a suite of investments in tackling the climate challenge, charting a course for healthy waters and inspiring people to take action for nature. One of the specific goals of the campaign is to create universally accessible trails on land managed by the Conservancy, with a focus on Manchester and Ossipee. The Pine Barrens Preserve trail represents the first accessibility project funded through the campaign. 

(Photo from L to R: Michael A. Racette, commission member, Chuck Saia, executive director, Governor’s Commission on Disability, Jim O’Brien, TNC, Susie Hackler, TNC, Governor Chris Sununu, Sheila Vargas, TNC, Sydney Allen, TC, Chelsea Martin, TNC, Bruce Clendenning, TNC, Anna Ormiston, TNC and Patrick Hackley, TNC.)

Visit the Ossipee Pine Barrens Preserve

About The Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire

The Nature Conservancy has spent more than six decades protecting nature for the benefit of people and wildlife. In New Hampshire, this includes helping protect more than 280,000 acres of the state’s most important natural landscapes. The Conservancy has led the way in rebuilding oyster reefs and restoring floodplains and has collaborated with business leaders, communities and legislators to develop innovative solutions to New Hampshire’s biggest environmental challenges. To support the Future of Nature campaign, go to or contact Susie Hackler at 603-224-5853.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.