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Goshen officials unveil new sensory trail project

Gemma DiCarlo/WVPE

Goshen officials unveiled a new trail project Tuesday that’s meant to engage people with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

The city partnered with local nonprofit ADEC to turn four miles of existing public trails into an interactive experience. 


Over the last year, naturalists and programmers have cataloged plants, animals and fungi along sections of the Pumpkinvine and Maple Heart trails and built an app around the sensory experience they provide.


Project manager Theresa Sailor said there are now over 900 natural features users can choose from to guide their walk.


“The idea is to keep you walking and keep you outside,” Sailor said. “You’ll see three of those things along your trail for two city blocks.”


Sailor said the app can send notifications when a user is near one of those features, and users can sort their experience by a particular sense.


“Maybe you want only things you can hear,” she said. “So it’ll give you just things on the trail that you can listen for, like frogs and toads, or birds.”


The city established a lending library of 10 iPads at Rieth Interpretive Center so anyone without a smartphone or tablet can still access the app. The city will also install three stationary web cameras so homebound individuals are able to access the trails.


“Science has consistently documented the positive benefits of interacting with nature, lower stress, better mood, increased concentration, and others,” a release from the city reads. “This project will provide opportunities for safe, interactive outings for recreation or therapy for all.”


The sensory trail is named for Ashley VanVurst, a member of the local disability community who died earlier this year. 


“To imagine her name on a sign would have garnered more than a couple screams of joy,’” VanVurst’s cousin Nicole Boyd Lehman said Tuesday. “We know that she would have been honored and over the moon to be honored in such a way.”


VanVurst was a relative of Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman, and he recalled updating her on the progress of the trail project before she died.


“She was involved in this project, she was involved in our community, and it was just – it really, really felt right that we take this step,” Stutsman said.


Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.


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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.