My job as a writer here at RTC typically involves a newsy exploration of trail developments, the economic benefits of trail tourism, and the limitations of tight alternative transportation budgets.
But working on a story for the upcoming fall edition of Rails to Trailsmagazine, I learned about a fresh approach to rail-trail enjoyment from Steve Stiert of Ulster Park, N.Y., who runs a charitable therapeutic donkey program. He has seven miniature donkeys that he takes to nursing homes, schools, nature centers, or anywhere else where folks could use a little cheer courtesy of these cuddly and unusual animals.
Ulster Park is in an area of the state flush with beautiful rail-trails, including the Wallkill Valley Rail-Trail, Hudson Valley Rail Trail, and the Walkway Over the Hudson, and these trails provide the animals with an easy walking opportunity and exposure to a lot of people, which helps prepare them for their therapeutic work.
I first interviewed Steve a few months ago, and have stayed in touch to keep updated on his "Little Brays of Sunshine" venture. Last time we spoke he was pleasantly surprised by the tremendous amount of excitement it's already generating. And so in order to connect more people with the therapeutic joys of miniature donkeys, Steve started a miniature donkey walking club. He's using Meetup.com to bring people together for group walks with his little brays. You can check it out here.
I'm really interested to see what our members think of this novel use for rail-trails! The Fall 2013 issue of Rails to Trails magazine will mail to members later this month. Want to know how you can get a copy? It's quick and easy.