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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Letchworth State Park Eyed
For Autism Nature Trail

If you missed THE ANT which aired Thursday, March 30, 2017 between 5:35-5:45 PM on 13WHAM-TV, channel 13 (ABC affiliate) in Rochester, you can now see it by clicking HERE.

Letchworth State Park, NY -- A committee of local volunteers, working in concert with the Open Space Institute (OSI), is developing a plan to build and support a specialized Autism Nature Trail at Letchworth State Park. The committee is led by Western New York residents Gail Serventi, Susan Herrnstein and Loren Penman. Experts from around the country such as well-known autism expert Dr. Temple Grandin have provided insight, and stage, screen and television personality Joe Mantegna has lent his name in support.

The committee is collaborating with the Open Space Institute, a statewide park and land conservation organization which was involved in successfully raising $2.3 million in private dollars for the newly opened Humphrey Nature Center, around which the trail is proposed to be located. All three local leaders were active supporters of that campaign.

"Just as the Humphrey Nature Center is encouraging park exploration and expanding the public's appreciation for our natural world, an Autism Nature Trail would provide these very same benefits, and more, to a community that has been underserved in terms of recreational space and engagement with nature," said Loren Penman.

"State Parks is extremely grateful for the private fundraising partnerships that serve as a vital lifeline and fuels the ongoing momentum to advance this magnificent system," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "Letchworth State Park is the perfect home for the creation of an innovative, one-of-a-kind and unparalleled trail destination experience. We are excited at the prospect of the Autism Nature Trail and all of the benefits it may provide that nourish our mind, body and soul."

The Nature Trail will engage visitors through a series of independent stations designed in consultation with ASD researchers and practitioners. Stations will incorporate the natural surroundings of Letchworth to promote visual, auditory and tactile exploration. They will provide a range of cognitive, experiential and social activities, while embracing the beauty and tranquility of the park.

The Trail will provide a family-friendly, welcoming environment where visitors can learn and explore nature in a safe and self-paced setting.

"We believe the Autism Nature Trail would add a much needed, positive and non-threatening dimension for children, adults and families living with ASD, allowing them to experience the physical, emotional and social benefits of being more fully engaged with nature," said Dr. Amy Laurent, an adjunct professor at the University of Rhode Island and a project consultant.

To date, the commitee has raised over $850,000 in commiments toward a rough goal of $4.4 million, and is actively reaching out to area and national funders for early support. "We must be sure that there is sufficient funding to both build the trail and support long-term programing and maintenance," said Erik Kulleseid, Senior Vice President at the Open Space Institute, "This is a special and specialized attraction and we need to ensure its future success."

When completed, the trail will be open to the general public as well, offering an enjoyable experience to all.

For further information, go to autismnaturetrail.com.

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