- Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
Andrew Hoadley is a senior in high school from Cohasset who completed a required project to achieve his Eagle Scout status when he was only in the eighth grade. Notably, the impact of his project is ongoing, and Hoadley is still involved in its future growth.
“A lot of Eagle Scout projects are one and done,” explained Hoadley, who has always enjoyed being outdoors. “I knew I could clean up a trail, but that wouldn’t last over time because I can’t clean it up forever. I wanted to do something that would last for years to come.”
One year prior to middle school, Andrew went on a walk with his grandfather on a Braille Trail on Cape Cod. He said that the experience stuck with him, because it was tactile and a new way to experience nature. Hoadley learned that few Braille Trails exist in the Commonwealth, and he began to form his idea for an Eagle Scout project.
“Everyone loves a sense of adventure in nature, and I didn’t want people who are blind to miss out on that,” says Hoadley, who is sighted.
Hoadley reached out to Perkins School for the Blind to visit the Braille Trail on their campus in Watertown. He met with staff who helped him create a plan and partnerships for the Braille Trail that he wished to develop in Norwell at the South Shore Natural Science Center.
The trail is named The Tupelo Trail for Blind Hikers, and Hoadley calls it a “place for everyone.” The nature-packed path is one sixteenth of a mile, but there is plenty of adventure along the way, including a vernal pool with a bridge across it, and a stone wall that walkers must navigate over or around with the help of markers and a rope. The trail also includes helpful posts with text in Braille about the natural elements and hazards surrounding the route.
“The idea that people who are visually impaired have to navigate safely all the time is good, but I really wanted them to experience nature with all the things that go along with it,” said Hoadley. “That’s what makes hiking so great.”
Hoadley is considering college and a future in neurology as a next step after high school. At the same time, he remains committed to the Trail and is in the process of raising funds to add a mobile navigation app and beacons along the path that are compatible with wireless technology to provide even more accessibility for visitors. The app will be available in the app store very soon.
“Now, I’m a Senior Patrol Leader in my Scout Troop, and I still want to give back,” said Hoadley who is grateful to his parents for their constant support with multiple service projects. “I’m always doing something and usually recruiting volunteers.”
To find out more about the Trail, Hoadley, and how you can help, visit www.tupeloblindtrail.com.