Hellcat Trail Boardwalk Replacement

US Fish and Wildlife Service
Newburyport, MA
Landscape Architecture
Government, Sports and Recreation

Project Overview

The LA Group provided landscape architectural services for the replacement of approximately 1.0 mile of boardwalk trail. Hellcat Trail receives approximately 120,000 visitors a year, providing access to dunes, maritime shrub lands, maritime forests, brackish saltwater marsh, and vernal pool habitats. Project goals include widening the trail, re-routing the trail to better fit to the natural terrain, adding sections of new trail for improved connectivity, improving access to observation points, and incorporating best management practices and federal trail accessibility standards (ABASS) to make the trail fully accessible.

Scope of services includes site reconnaissance, geotechnical analysis, code compliance review, design development, Class C and B cost estimates, preparation of construction/bid documents, and construction administration for phased construction. Provided limited construction administration and inspection services for a $300K Phase 1 construction project and provided construction administration and full-time inspection services for a $4.2M Phase 2 construction project. Scope of services for the Phase 2 construction project mirrored the duties that would typically be assigned to the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR), including all quality assurance, contract administration, and construction inspection services.

Wayfinding signage design, including orientation and pedestrian directional, was also provided under a separate task order. Plans and specifications were prepared in compliance with USFWS sign standards for fabrication and then installation by USFWS.

Project Highlights

  • Replacement of 1-mile boardwalk trail.
  • Fully ABBAS compliant.
  • Accessible trail to ocean overlook.
  • Improved marsh overlooks.
  • Protection of ecological and cultural resources.
  • Complies with Wilderness designation.
  • Use of recycled products and appropriate materials for harsh environment.
  • Improved orientation and wayfinding signage.
  • Cost estimating and construction phasing strategies.
  • Full-time construction inspection services.


A major design challenge was providing a new universally accessible trail to an existing ocean viewing area. This involved removing a series of steps and with a creative and environmentally sensitive approach designing not only an accessible path but also providing for a new and improved ocean overlook. These solutions benefit the client in offering an new and improved visitor amenity and experience.


An additional challenge included working on a site with multiple habitats, shifting sands, steep terrain, ecologically and culturally sensitive areas, and Wilderness designation. In response to these conditions, The LA Group provided design solutions in keeping with the natural environment and providing a responsive set of construction drawings and specifications that detailed contractor requirements and responsibilities for protecting the public and site during construction.