Evan Barnard at the first sign of the Big Pine BrailleTrail on the day of his trail walk at Big Pine Braille Trail in October, 2011
Evan Barnard at the first sign of his new Braille trail on the day of the trail's Dedication at Whispering Woods Braille Trail in March, 2015
a Tale of two trails
In 2010, Evan Barnard began working in a Nature Conservancy managed Marshall Forest in Rome, Georgia on the Big Pine Braille trail. The trail needed work, as all 15 aluminum Braille signs had been stolen. Frustrated that someone would vandalize a trail for the visually impaired community, Evan installed new plastic Braille signs and cleared the trail. Unbelievably, the trail was vandalized again and guide ropes were stolen. Determined to make the trail useable, Evan replaced ropes and cleared the trail. After attending a local Georgia Council of the Blind (GCB) meeting to invite members to the trail, Evan realized that the visually impaired have extremely limited access to everything outdoors, and wanted to create opportunities for more visually impaired to enjoy nature. For several years, Evan promoted the Braille trail and advocated that nature should be accessible to all, regardless of disability. He worked closely with GCB and was interviewed on the GA Radio Reading Service show "Eye on Blindness" about the trail and importance of creating opportunities for visually impaired to enjoy the outdoors. After organizing and leading a trail hike for 25 visually impaired GCB members, Evan decided to build more Braille trails. Awarded a Disney Friends for Change grant, Evan found the perfect place for a new trail at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center in Buford, Georgia, starting construction on Global Youth Service Day. He gathered student volunteers from Johns Creek High School to map the path and Braille sign locations. Students led each other blindfolded along the trail, evaluating proposed sites. Evan organized work parties with youth and adult volunteers to build the trail. Home Depot donated materials, and their volunteers installed guide posts and built Braille sign platforms. BlueWater ropes donated climbing rope for the guide ropes. It was important for members of the visually impaired community to help design the trail, so Georgia Council of the Blind members, led by student volunteers, tested proposed sign stations. Markers were added to the guide ropes, and Braille signs were finalized and installed. The trail is now completed and dedicated to the Georgia Council of the Blind for their support and help in making this trail become a reality.