Friday, July 27, 2012

Celebrating the ADA with Outdoor Recreation!

Yesterday's 22nd Annual Celebration of the ADA at Dunn Pond State Park in Gardner, MA was another fantastic day! Threatening weather forecasts did not stop the Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council from conducting their popular event which included a free catered meal on the green and wonderful live music. DCR's Universal Access Program provided kayaking and trails experiences. The rain and storms held off, the sun came out, and over 150 people enjoyed a meaningful day commemorating the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I especially noticed a lot of people were discovering they could enjoy kayaking and getting out on a woodland trail when previously they had not thought this was possible or something they would enjoy. Some people with severe disabilities were well bolstered with padding in the front of a kayak while someone paddled and steered in the back seat.

Other individuals were able to use unique hand adaptations to help them paddle independently on the gentle waters of the pond. Our rugged hiking wheelchairs allowed those who are challenged by walking to get further into the woods with less effort on a smooth trail, supported by team members. Out on the trail, people enjoyed nature interpretation and following clues to find letterboxes (hidden boxes that contain stamps to commemorate an outing).

All in all, it was a great experience, enjoyed and appreciated by not just those who came to attend, but by the park staff and those who worked hard to organize the event. Such opportunities should not be seen as a once-a-year event.  Summer is not over! We have programs going on in a variety of parks through August! Space is still available in many programs so please don't hesitate to call, find out more, and sign up for more outdoor summer fun!

Here's a list of upcoming recreation opportunities: Don't miss out!!!

Kayaking at Douglas State Forest (on the Rhode Island border) - 2 days left: Thursdays, August 2 and 9.
Kayaking at Regatta Point, Quinsigamond State Park, Worcester - 2 dates: Thursdays, August 16 and 23.
Canoeing at Hampton Ponds State Park (near Springfield) - 3 dates: Tuesdays: August 7, 14, and 21. Call All Out Adventures at 413-527-8980 for the above 3 programs!

Kayaking at Hopkinton State Park in Hopkinton (out the outskirts of Boston) - 3 dates: Thursdays: August 2, 9, and 16. Call 508-435-3965 to sign up! Families are especially welcome!

Upcoming Hiking Programs:
Walden Pond State Reservation (in Concord, outside Boston): Thursday, August 2
Robinson State Park (in Agawam, near Springfield): August 28
Boston Harbor Islands ferry ride and hike: September 6
Chicopee State Park, (in Chicopee, near Springfield): September 13

Call Stavros Outdoor Access at 413-259-0009! Hiking programs continue through October!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Community Paddling With Waypoint Adventure

Its hard to imagine a pristine feeling wild place on the edge of Boston, but the Charles River offers just that on the Newton/Needham line at Nonantum Park. I joined Waypoint Adventure there for an adaptive kayaking program last week and had a great day paddling with magnificent clouds reflected on the surprisingly tranquil river.

Dan Minnich and Adam Combs are the innovative force of Waypoint Adventure, sharing both the business management and outdoor guide responsibilities of their adventure organization. They led small groups through introductory lessons and warm-up stretches on land before we launched our boats for an hour or so of paddling on the Charles as it passes through Cutler Park Reservation owned by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Dan and Adam encouraged us to contemplate community as we enjoyed the natural beauty and each other's company on the gentle expanse of river. Turtle, muskrat and heron sightings were common, and conversations sprung up among various combinations of paddlers.

I was delighted to hear from another paddler, Jen, that she had just returned from canoeing in the Boundary Waters with Wilderness Inquiry, where is it still the norm to navigate using paper maps and be out of range of cellphone reception. Thank goodness for those more remote wilderness opportunities! Jen left her wheelchair on shore for our venture upriver and really appreciated paddling without the weight of camping gear.

Don Summerfield, who identifies himself as a brain injury survivor, learned early in his rehabilitation how important it is to stay active and keeps at it by participating in programs offered by Waypoint Adventures, Stavros Outdoor Access, Spaulding Adaptive Sports Center, and DCR's Universal Access Program. He said, "I realized today, paddle by paddle, that we are all stewards of this great earth, and to share this with all our community!"

Dan told me a wonderful story of leading a kayak clinic in New Hampshire recently, where he was able to introduce Joni (of Joni and Friends), a well-known woman with quadriplegia, to kayaking using the Creating Ability seating system in a tandem kayak. We marveled at Waypoint's brush with fame and how we all, no matter who were are, have new adventures awaiting us.

Waypoint has two more dates on the Charles River coming up - August 2 and 16 - plus other guided adventures on deck. Don't miss your chance to connect with community - in nature, in a small group adventure, and with the greater adaptive recreation community as a whole! Call 781-454-5297 to sign up!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Adaptive Kayaking at Hopkinton State Park

Last week I was able to join our adaptive kayak program at Hopkinton State Park for one session. To my surprise I recognized the participants from our Adaptive Recreation Fair on June 9 in Boston. Michelle rolled up on her scooter with young Lincoln at her side. They were soon set up on a "sit on top" style ocean kayak. Becca, a staff member from B&G Outdoor Recreation, which runs a fantastic waterfront boat concession on the lake, was their assigned instructor. She and I paddled alongside Michelle and Lincoln across the lake on an exceptionally scenic afternoon in sea kayaks. What fun!

I was delighted to hear that Michelle had found out about our Recreation Fair from the MS Society in the greater Boston area. It was her first exposure to DCR's Universal Access Program and they had a great time cycling and letterboxing there. Since the event just over a month ago, she and Lincoln have been wasting no time in exploring their state park resources. I heard about their adventures trying out the Mobi-Chair at Scusset Beach State Reservation donated by SMILEMass, and a trip to Carson Beach in South Boston. They plan to return to Hopkinton State Park to kayak each week and also visit our kayak program at Walden Pond State Reservation.

You can too! There are plenty of time slots available at Hopkinton State Park, conveniently located just outside Boston. The program will run every Thursday through August 16 and costs $10 per person. Visit Boating in Boston or call (508) 435-3965 to sign up! The boat concession is open 7 days a week and offers a variety of water sport equipment rentals, lessons and camps including sailing, canoeing and paddleboarding in addition to kayaking.

If you meet Michelle and Lincoln out there, say "Hi!" for me!

Supporting Adaptive Kayaking in the Berkshires

Guest Post from Emily Piccirilli, our Universal Access Program summer clerk, who offers a her unique perspective on helping with our adaptive kayak program from shore. Emily paddled with the program for the first time this week. Thanks Emily for all you do, which is much more than "simply registering participants")!

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Monday afternoon than kayaking out in the summer air. The Adaptive Kayaking program at the D.A.R. State Forest in Goshen MA, at the eastern edge of the Berkshires, is lead by Brenda Kennedy-Davies of Stavros Outdoor Access. It is a fun way to get out on the water with support if you need it. Brenda, an occupational therapist, and her staff are all avid kayakers and have a wealth of knowledge about outdoor recreation and safety on the water. A trained lifeguard is also present. At 5 dollars per person the program is affordable!

The park is beautiful and filled with many recreational options. With easy access to accessible trails and a swimming beach close by, many participants sit at picnic tables and have lunch before or after their kayak session. Whether you are arriving early or staying later, swimming at the beach is a fun way of cooling off after kayaking on a hot day.

In my three years of helping with registration at this program I have met a variety of different and wonderful people. I have made many new friends and learned a lot about outdoor recreation. The program is open to all - from beginners getting into a kayak for the first time to those who have been kayaking for years. The excitement of the participants fills the air as they launched onto the water. Across the lake I hear fun-filled laughter as they play water games like basketball or tag by tossing a rubber chicken into boats. Blueberries growing along the water’s edge can be picked by hungry kayakers who drift by.

I love this time of the year, when I can get out of the office and join in the group effort to help those with disabilities do what some think they will never be able to do. The joy on their faces as they discover that they can do it is the greatest reward. I take it all in and watch from the water’s edge as Brenda and her staff kayak out across Highland Lake with participants, some of whom may struggle to get around on land, yet glide effortlessly on water. I could not have said it better than when Allan Butson came up to me after he and his son Brandon went out kayaking for the first time and said “this organization and everyone here is wonderful.” He couldn’t be more right about the devoted group of people who work so hard to make these programs happen. Although my job is simply to register participants, I am proud to say that I, in my small way, was able to help make someone’s dreams come true.


Adaptive Kayaking programs at D.A.R. State Forest are held on Mondays: July 30 and August 6 with Outdoor Access. Call Brenda at 413-259-0009 to pre register! Also, if Monday’s don’t fit into your schedule kayaking at D.A.R. State Forest is offered by All Out Adventures on Wednesdays: July 18 and 25 and August 1, 8 and 15. Call 413-527-8980 to pre register!