Harford County’s first sensory trail officially opened Wednesday at the Schucks Regional Park on Schucks Road in Bel Air. The 1/10-mile, paved trail has several stations designed for people with differing disabilities to enjoy in the outdoors.
Harford County officially opened its Sensory Trail at the Schucks Road Regional Park on Wednesday morning.
To open the trail, County Executive Barry Glassman was joined by Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and a choir of special needs students from the nearby John Archer School and several preschoolers from La Garderie Childcare Center.
The 1/10-mile trail, next to the park's main parking lot, includes 10 interactive features, such as 9-foot chimes for two octaves of solo or group music; a roller table for pinch-free tactile sliding; drums and xylophones of different sizes; and brightly colored panels at kid-eye level for lots of fun and sensory stimulation.
"We have over 2,700 children with disabilities in Harford County, so for us it means a chance for them, with their peers, to experience nature have sensory stimulation which we know is good for all kids, interact with their peers and just have a safe place to play here in Harford County," Rachel Harbin, manager of the Harford Office of Disability Services, said.
She and her friend, Sheri Slater, checked out the trail Wednesday morning.
"It's just such a great opportunity for people of all abilities to come out and participate, not be nervous. I think this trail is great for people of all ages, it's great for adults, grandparents, young kids, I just think it's awesome," Slater, who is in a wheelchair and is a member of the Harford Commission on Disabilities, said as she explored a few of the stations.
Members of the John Archer School Chorus entertained the audience gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony with the classic song "Rockin' Robin" before heading out to explore the trail themselves.
"It's incredibly important for students like ours and for other people in the community who have different sensory needs. For them coming to a large open space like a park can be overwhelming for them, so giving them this kind of opportunity where it has a little bit of focus to it and giving them the opportunity to really experience the park is awesome," John Archer School music teacher Katie Ford said as she watched some of her students playing the large drums at one station.
Fellow John Archer School music teacher Beth Baker said she hopes the new trail helps other communities step up and bring places like the sensory trail to their communities.
"I'm hoping that this opportunity will allow other communities to see how important it is to have various levels of playground opportunities no matter what the needs of the child are. So we're hoping that other communities will step up seeing the example that Harford County has set with this trail," Baker said.
The trail was made possible by support of local community organizations, with representatives from those groups on hand for Wednesday's event. To thank the major sponsors, each station has the sponsor's name on the plaque describing the station: United Methodist Churches of Harford County, Jones Junction, Harford County Public Library, APG Federal Credit Union, Harford Home Furniture & Mattress, The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region, Harford County Public Schools Department of Special Education, the Harford Center, and Harford Mutual Insurance Company.
The park will also be home to the Miracle League of Harford County baseball field which is expected to be built next year.
"The field will give adults and children of all abilities a chance to play baseball. So we're really reaching out to give those folks in that community an opportunity to enjoy Harford County and the outdoors," Glassman said.