“Tomorrow is my birthday! I’m very excited about this,” Sam exclaimed during the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Butler Snow Sensory Trail at Red Mountain Park.
Nestled among a grove of native trees toward the front of the park, the new trail is aimed at helping people like Sam, who have developmental differences, experience the natural world in a fun, accessible way. The new .14-mile trail features a wide range of activities and stations for people to engage their senses, such as an herb garden to smell, a spot to identify different types of trees and a bird call station that lets people listen and learn the variety of songs they might here in nature.
“I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who made today possible,” Council President Pro Tem Jay Roberson said to the crowd who had gathered for the occasion. “We’ve established a great outdoor park here in the city of Birmingham for all our citizens to enjoy. Today is a very special day because we get to celebrate inclusion and making this beautiful place available for anyone who wants to come visit.”
Monica Romano, Director of Philanthropy and Internal Operations at Red Mountain Park, said the new trail was made possible, in part, by a generous donation in 2016 from the Butler Snow Foundation, whose name is now forever tied to the new inclusive trail.
“This trail is specifically designed for those who have sensory differences. So folks who have hearing or sight impairment or are perhaps somewhere on the autism spectrum, this is a place for them to come be in nature,” Romano said. “After the donation from the Butler Snow Foundation in 2016 that provided the seed money we needed, over the last two years we’ve had support from nine Eagle Scouts and a number of organizations in the surrounding community who have helped us design and develop this trail.”
Dozens of people, some of them in wheelchairs, came out to get a look at the beautifully designed trail, replete with funky mirrors, giant wind chimes and a litany of natural surfaces to feel.
Cameron Vowell, a member of the Red Mountain Park Commission, said she was overjoyed that the trail is finally open and can be enjoyed for years to come.
“We’ve worked on this for years and its a dream come true for all the people you’ve seen come down and enjoy the trail today. Having worked with people with disabilities, this means a lot to me and to their families. To see Sam, who I’ve known for years, and the other kids out here is just great. Thank you to all who made this possible, the Butler Snow Foundation and Councilor Jay Roberson for his unwavering support. This obviously going to be a big hit.”
As the first wave of guests began to subside, Romano and others reflected on the importance of having something like this in the community. “We want to be a park built by the community, for the community,” Romano said. “Our community includes everyone, regardless of age or physical ability.”