A world expanded

  • Kyle Filbig takes in the view from the Dutton Brook Trail at Crotched Mountain, in a scene from the documentary "Trails for Everyone."
  • Two hikers ascend Crotched Mountain's Gregg Trail, on their way to a summit with a three-state view, in a scene from the documentary "Trails for Everyone."
  • Cameraman Colin Havey, using a steadicam, films Janet Zeller, in her wheelchair, and Tom Fogarty on the trails at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center during the  production of "Trails for Everyone." Fogarty served as executive producer on the film.
  • Sharon Arts Gallery shows work by nine local artists in "Peterborough Artist's Colony Exhibit."<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Planning Board votes that Dollar General representatives will need variances from the Zoning Board to move forward with proposed store.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

HANCOCK — A Hancock filmmaker’s 10-minute documentary about the accessible trails system at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield took the Best Short Documentary award last weekend at the SNOB (Somewhat North of Boston) Film Festival in Concord. The film is bringing attention to more than two miles of hiking trails that are now part of a $2.27 million federally funded conservation easement on 1,226 forested acres in the towns of Greenfield, Bennington and Francestown.

Michael Havey’s film, “Trails for Everyone” tells the story of the country’s longest mountainside trail system designed for people of all abilities, including wheelchair users. The network has two distinct trails that provide diverse outdoor experiences. The Gregg Trail is a series of graded switchbacks rising 200 feet to a knoll on the Crotched Mountain ridgeline. The Dutton Brook Trail includes a loop that winds around an abandoned beaver-built wetland and features diverse forest and animal habitats. The system winds through a wild blueberry field and wetland bog and offers views of three states.

The Crotched Mountain Foundation raised more than $500,000 to build the trail network, according to Senior Vice President Michael Redmond.

“We did it because we wanted to open up the outdoors to everyone,” Redmond said on Wednesday. “We built the trails so everyone could use them.”

Redmond said that with the easement now in place, Crotched Mountain is working on ways to open up more of its property for hunting and camping, not just for the general public but also for those with disabilities.

“We want recreation to become something Crotched Mountain is well known for,” he said.

Havey, who made the film through his company, Yasvin Communications, for the Crotched Mountain Foundation, said his goal was to show how the trail system can broaden people’s horizons.

“Being outside has the ability to change your life,” he said on Tuesday. “Almost everyone knows someone who has a disability. As a result, we can really relate to how important it is that people get outside. For people with disabilities, that’s a much bigger challenge. This is making a huge difference for them. That’s the story we were trying to tell.”

The film highlights three people who use wheelchairs — narrator Janet Zeller, a U.S. Forest Service national accessibility program manager; Mark Race, a peer support supervisor at Granite State Independent Living, and Chelsea Fernandes, a student at Crotched Mountain School. They each testify to how the trail system has changed them.

“The opportunity to get out in the deep woods on a trail with my family and friends, despite the fact that I use a wheelchair, is a real gift,” says Zeller.

“I never thought life could be this accessible to my disability,” says Fernandes in the film. “ Just being able to take nature in completely, and just get lost, is probably one of my favorite parts of being on that trail... I remember going out and just sitting at this specific spot, where you can really see the mountaintops very well. It just brought a sense of peace to me and just made be realize that everything was going all right, that it was OK, that I was going to be OK.”

And Race notes that the trail system is really for everyone.

“It’s important to all folks, whether they be with or without a disability, to have a trail system that’s universally designed to take the power chair user, the manual wheelchair user, or the mom and two kids with stroller.... If you try it once, you’ll want to do it again. It was empowering, it was capital F U N, Fun.”

Havey’s company has been in business for about 14 years and was formerly located in Harrisville. He made the movie in 2011, working with a small crew and lots of help from Tom Fogerty at the rehab center, and finished it last fall, just after the trail network opened.

“With a doc, you really never know what you’ll be getting,” he said. “You don’t have a plot or a script. You have to tell the story that’s there. That’s where the creativity is; that’s the fun part about a documentary.”

Jay Doherty is one of the organizers of the SNOB festival, which is in its 11th season and draws submissions from around the world. In an email to the Ledger-Transcript on Tuesday, Doherty said the awards are based on three sets of input. First, a selection team picked about 60 finalists from more than 100 films submitted.

“We felt these were the best films that the greater central New Hampshire audience would like to see. It is an award just to be officially selected,” Doherty wrote.

Then each of the films was played at least twice during the festival, which ran from Nov. 8 to Nov. 12 at the Red River Theatres in Concord, and the audience rated each film.

Other participants in the festival also weighed in, with writers, cinematographers and directors sharing their opinions. Doherty wrote that all three rankings are combined to come up with a final score.

Doherty wrote that “Trails for Everyone” made quite an impression.

“Being from New Hampshire, I never knew about these trails,” he wrote. “After watching the film, I made the trek over to check them out first hand. I have a 18-month-old and it was fun hike, seeing that I could push him in his little buggy the whole way.”

Redmond said Crotched Mountain has shown the video at a fundraising event and posted it on its website.

“We’re happy that Micheal won the award. He’s been a great partner to us,” Redmond said.

Havey said he was gratified by the response to the movie at the SNOB festival and winning the best short documentary award was an unexpected bonus.

“We were rather surprised,” he said. “You always are when you win something.”

He said recognition is the main honor at a festival like SNOB.

“Maybe we’ll get a plaque,” he said. “And other filmmakers see it and say, ‘That was really cool.’”

He said that recognition hopefully will draw more people to the trails at Crotched Mountain.

“It’s just beautiful at this time of year, Havey said. “Go out there and have a hike.”

“Trails for Everyone” can be seen on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=htHwewAi0Qk.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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