Autism Nature Trail

Letchworth State Park’s Autism Nature Trail is a 1-mile hiking loop that includes eight marked sensory stations

CASTILE — The nation’s first nature trail specifically designed to address the sensory needs of those with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities is open at Letchworth State Park.

Supported by more than $3.3 million in private fundraising, the new Autism Nature Trail is a 1-mile hiking loop that includes eight marked sensory stations, each designed to address a different sensory experience in a safe and supportive environment.

”New York State is leading the nation in creating this public trail purposefully designed to bring the benefits of the outdoors to those on the autism disorder spectrum and their families,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

Activities along the Autism Nature Trail support and encourage sensory perception and integration, while also providing enjoyable activities for visitors of all abilities and ages. The stations engage each visitor’s senses, using nature and natural materials as the tools for skill-building. The trail is set up to allow for safe social distancing and planned interaction.

Located near the park’s Humphrey Nature Center with parking, restrooms and Wi-Fi, the ADA-compliant trail was designed with input from Dr. Temple Grandin, a cattle industry expert who was diagnosed with autism in 1950 at the age of 2 and is now one of the world’s most well-known advocates for the autistic community.

Support and programming for the trail comes from the nearby Perry Central School District in Wyoming County and Rochester’s Camp Puzzle Peace, an Adirondack summer camp for families living with developmental disabilities.

Fundraising for the trail is managed on behalf of state parks by the Natural Heritage Trust. Fundraising will continue to support visitor programming for the Autism Nature Trail. So far, more than 650 separate donations have been made to the project, reflecting more than 430 individual donors, 50 corporate donors, 25 community groups, and 15 foundations.

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “The public-private partnership that envisioned and accomplished this innovative project shows what the power of collaboration and commitment can achieve. State Parks values our dedicated staff and partners who have put in countless hours and is grateful for the generous financial support provided by so many donors.”

About one in 54 children in the U.S. have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and often has a tremendous impact on parents, siblings, and members of the extended family.

Statistics show that young people with autism spend disproportionate amounts of time indoors, often finding comfort in digital activities which results in social isolation. This disconnectedness not only affects individuals with ASD but also can affect caregivers and entire families, who can sometimes feel uncomfortable in outside settings.

For more information on the Autism Nature Trail, visit: https://autismnaturetrail.com/.

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