A bench near the trailhead of an accessible trail in Blue Hill. The Blue Hill Heritage Trust is working to get five accessible trails throughout the peninsula. Credit: Ethan Genter / BDN

David Wardamasky loves to be in nature. It’s something that the Blue Hill resident thinks should be available to everyone. But when it comes to the state’s extensive network of trails, most aren’t made for people like him.

Wardamasky has ALS. All it takes is a few rocks or a raised root, and he’s at an impasse with his wheelchair.

“My walking days are done,” he said. “Going out to standard trails isn’t doable for me anymore.”

And while standard trails may be out of the question, the Blue Hill Peninsula is joining a nationwide push to make scenic nature strolls available to people of all abilities. By the end of this year, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, a local land conservation group, aims to have five accessible trails in the region.

The trust added an accessible gravel path that meanders through the woods behind the First Congregational Church of Blue Hill in 2020, finished a path at an alewife run in Brooksville last year and hopes to build three accessible trails in Brooklin and Sedgwick by the end of 2022.

Accessible trails are usually wide, largely level paths free of the roots and rocks that normally accompany the Maine wilderness.

Chrissy Allen, the development director at the trust, said the issue is an important one for Maine and the Blue Hill Peninsula, which both have stunning natural beauty but also increasingly aging populations.

The trust has also formed an accessibility advisory group to conduct an audit of the area’s trails. Meanwhile, Allen, who also sits on the national Land Trust Alliance’s disabilities council and co-wrote a guide for similar organizations, is helping to plan a statewide workshop on accessibility in October.

While not every trail could or should be made as smooth as a kitchen floor, land conservation organizations should be thinking about what they can do to make at least small areas easier for people to use, she said.

Wardamasky was appreciative that people are starting to think more about how people in wheelchairs or a range of other mobility limitations can utilize trail systems.

“The trail behind the church is great,” he said. “I can be amongst nature again, which is fantastic.”

But there’s still a long way to go if organizations want to fulfill this new ideal.

He recently went to a trail in Surry that some friends had told him was accessible only to discover a barrier arm gate at the trailhead. He had to recline his wheelchair all the way and take off his glasses to get under the arm, which still ran up against his face.

“People have to look at it through a different set of eyes,” he said.