In September 2011, a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the installation of seven interpretive display stations along the 1.2-mile Fern Trail. It had been the long-time vision of then-Park Naturalist Julie Hein-Frank to expand the already accessible features of the trail…a 4 to 5-foot wide crushed limestone path with sections of boardwalk.
The interpretive stations include visual, auditory and tactile displays. They describe elements of the various ecosystems along the trail: the microhabitat that supports the growth of Ostrich Ferns, the geologic history of the park forests, the importance of dark skies, the importance of snags and the natural decomposition of trees, facts about birds that reside in the park.
To enjoy the full experience of the interpretive displays, visitors can check out a Discovery Pen from the park’s Visitors Center. Each pen contains a microchip and a speaker. When touched to a green dot on a display, the visitor will hear the messages that are keyed to that individual station. All of the panels on the Fern Trail provide audio descriptions produced by a professional who works with the blind.
Because of repeated seasonal flooding issues along Fern Trail, Newport Wilderness Society is planning and fundraising for the installation of an elevated ADA-compliant boardwalk through the affected parts of the trail.