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Partners for Access to the Woods - PAW
PAW
PAW

Partners for Access to the Woods or PAW was started on June 23, 1988 with a mission statement that reads:

To conduct research, with participation by persons with disabilities and the general public, on universal design* for outdoor recreation facilities, programs, and products and to share that research through educational tools, conferences, publications and the internet.

PAW has served as a non-profit organization, with the vision of opening public lands for persons with disabilities for almost 25 years.  During that time, PAW has worked with other non-profits, universities, the disabled communities, and government agencies such as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado State Parks and Wildlife, Clear Creek County,   Colorado School of Mines, the University of Colorado, Easter Seals and others to accomplish this goal.

The Berthoud Pass Auto Tour does not seem to fit this mission.  It was a long time goal of PAW and its partners to restore the Empire-Middle Park Wagon Road that goes from Empire Junction over Berthoud Pass to Winter Park into an accessible trail with picnic areas and campgrounds along its length that could be used by persons of all ages and abilities. Most of the wagon road is found on federal lands, and to meet the many federal requirements, PAW was required to furnish an archeological study of all of the historical sites that were found along its length. It is this study that is the basis of the Auto Tour.    When PAW learned that they would not be able to meet the continuing list of requirements needed to restore the wagon road, they turned their attention to a piece of land just outside of Empire, Colorado.  (See MP 255-256 Pages 3 & 4)

PAW’s Education Research Trail (PERT), located just west of Empire, is an accessible trail that tells the history of the wagon road over Berthoud Pass. The trail was opened on September 30, 2013.  This was PAW’s last project before retiring. Partners for Access to the Woods (PAW)’s Board of Directors, and Executive Director officially retired on June 23, 2014.  The PERT site has been given to the Clear Creek Metropolitan Recreation District to operate and maintain.

PAW began as Physically-challenged Access to the Woods in 1988 with a partnership between the White River National Forest and Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary. The name was changed to Partners for Access to the Woods to show that it represented persons of all disabilities as well as to indicate that it was through PAW’s partners that its mission was accomplished. PAW was invited to serve on the committee that wrote the Architectural Barriers Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas, which included trails, campgrounds, and other recreation sites.  A partnership with the Colorado Department of Wildlife produced two textbooks on accessible outdoor facilities and programs. PAW was a partner with the U. S. Forest Service for the trails found at Yeoman Campground (outside of Eagle, Colorado) and the Mt. of the Holy Cross (on Shrine Pass on Vail Pass). PAW’s Anansi Chapter with the U. S. Forest Service built the Big Al Trail (outside of Dolores, Colorado). PAW designed with students from the Colorado School of Mines, a research trail with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado at the Easter Seals Camp outside of Empire, Colorado. One of the most fun partnerships was mentoring students on projects based on “universal design” at the Colorado School of Mines (over 14 years) and the University of Colorado. The Berthoud Pass Archaeological Survey, that this auto tour is based on, was done with many hours of work from the students from the Colorado School of Mines.

PAW’s mission statement read: “To conduct research, with participation by persons with disabilities and the general public, on universal design for outdoor recreation facilities, programs, and products and to share that research through educational tools, conferences, publications and the internet.” PAW is thankful for partnerships with the U. S. Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, U. S. Fish & Wildlife, State of Colorado, Clear Creek County, Vail-Eagle Valley Rotary, Easter Seals and others. 

*Universal Design addresses the needs of the whole family.  It includes the needs of each of us as we are today and as our needs change through time and the events of illness, accidents and the aging process.  Universal design addresses the needs of persons of all ages and abilities.