Norman Bird Sanctuary

Thanks to a combination of federal, state and private funding, 1650’ feet of trail winding through fields, wetlands and forest down to Red Maple Pond, is now accessible to those with disabilities at the Norman Bird Sanctuary. The Universal Trail begins at the Welcome Center, where all visitors enter the campus, and will provide individuals using mobility aids with access to self-guided trail exploration as well as participation in environmental education programs.

“The ADA compliant trail offers an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to establish a connection to the natural world, and helps fulfill a core NBS mission priority to inspire diverse audiences to learn from, enjoy, and care about the environment,” says Executive Director Natasha Harrison.

Improvements include digging out the trail and re-grading, extending the trail to reduce the slope, and installing a high-tech organic pervious surface that will manage storm-water, reduce erosion, and dramatically improve the surface for visitors using mobility aids such as wheelchairs. The trailhead entryway has also gone through a series of upgrades designed to protect the local watershed by filtering runoff and reducing erosion, as well as create a vibrant habitat for native species.

Both Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse were in attendance at the recent ribbon cutting ceremony, and spoke about the groundbreaking achievement.

“We’re just inaugurating access for the extraordinary piece of property,” Sen. Reed said. “So that people can come here that otherwise would not literally get around – but now, because of the Universal Trail, they will. They’ll be able to share the joy of nature.”

“To be able to protect a special area like this – so that people can have a wilderness experience and spend an entire afternoon walking about – is just glorious,” added Sen. Whitehouse. “And that fact that this glorious opportunity is extended to people with disabilities is a wonderful thing.”

State Representative Dan Reilly, Charlie Vandemoer from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Gregg Cassidy from the RI Department of Environmental Management, and Mary Anne Pallack from the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities, were also present, representing the organizations that provided funding for this project.

Tanya Kelley, Principal at PLACEstudio Landscape Design of Newport, led the design of the trailhead entryway, rain garden, and native plantings. NBS Properties Director Joseph McLaughlin and Mike DaPonte of DaPonte’s Landscaping in Bristol led the construction of the new trail and entrance.

Norman Bird Sanctuary | 583 Third Beach Road | Middletown, RI 02842

Ryan Belmore is the Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a move they made in 2021. Read more about that here -

Belmore visits Newport every couple of weeks to support the 12+ paid contributors What'sUpNewp has on the ground across Rhode Island, a place he called home for 39 years.

Belmore is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
Belmore can be contacted at and 401-662-1653.