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Including the visually impaired in Colorado's outdoors with VIP trail

New trail at Bear Creek Park
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jun 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-23 20:43:49-04

EL PASO COUNTY — A new kind of VIP trail just opened at the Bear Creek Nature Center on the southwest side of Colorado Springs.

In this case, VIP stands for Visually Impaired Persons’.

“The VIP trail is a continuation of our commitment to accessibility and action,” said El Paso County Director of Community Services, Todd Marts.

The new trail goes beyond the basic requirements of ADA accessibility.

“Let's go past what we have to provide,” said Marts.

El Paso County park planner called on visually impaired members of the community like Monica Gimbel to consult on the project.

“I just love being able to be outdoors and not have to rely on someone else,” said Gimbel.

A park visitor going the VIP trail can pick up what is called a PenFriend at the victor center.

It is a high-tech connection giving a voice to the written words on interpretive signs along the VIP trail.

A thick rope running the length of the trail is a guide allowing someone who is visually impaired to navigate the trail with independence.

“Once you feel a knot, you know that there's going to be a [interpretive] board directly in front of it,” said Gimbel.

Those signs offer information on things you can feel, hear, and smell along the trail

“Hear the birds or the squirrels chatter in the water rushing through just smelling some of the different things like the lemon weed and stuff,” said Gimbel.

“People are laughing and smiling. We've got a couple of people who are visually impaired that are on the trail right now enjoying it,” said County Commissioner Stan VanderWerf, “So I have a sneaking suspicion this is going to be put to good use.”


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