Friday, October 26, 2012

Accessible Trails in Massachusetts

Coastal trail at Belle Isle Marsh
Autumn is the most spectacular time to take to the trail and appreciate the glory of being outdoors. There are many great trails experiences in Massachusetts that accommodate wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments. From Cape Cod to the Berkshires, these trails can be enjoyed by everyone.

Trails designed for accessibility feature wider pathways (three to five feet wide), stable and slip resistant surfaces, low grades, minimal cross slopes, ramped bridges and easy-access viewing areas. Some accessible trails also feature seating at intervals, Braille signage, audio tours, and sensory elements to create a broader base of inclusion. It is common for designated accessible trails to be a quarter to a half mile in length, sometimes longer.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation offers several accessible trails across the state park system. In northeastern Massachusetts, Bradley Palmer State Park (Topsfield) and Harold Parker State Forest (N. Andover) both offer views of water from shaded accessible trails.  Belle Isle Marsh and Webb Memorial Park provide coastal walks just north and south of Boston. In central Massachusetts, you can find accessible woodland trails at Dunn State Park (Gardner) and Wells State Park (Sturbridge). In the Connecticut River Valley, a forested lakeside trail is being extended to a beautiful new bridge at Mt. Tom State Reservation (Holyoke). In the Berkshires, there are accessible trails in D.A.R. State Forest (Goshen), Savoy Mountain State Forest (Savoy) and Pittsfield State Forest (Pittsfield).   

The Neponsett River Rail Trail in Dorchester has wonderful
murals along the way.
Rail trails - those popular conversions of railroad tracks to cycling paths - provide easy access for miles through a variety of urban and natural habitats. They can also be used as commuter routes. Some of the best ones in Massachusetts include the Cape Cod Rail Trail (Eastham to Dennis), Shining Seas Pathway (Falmouth to Woods Hole), the Norwottuck Rail Trail (Northampton to Amherst), and the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail (Dalton to Adams). In central Massachusetts there are two rail trails in the works that have completed sections - the Blackstone River Bikeway (Worcester to Providence) and the North Central Pathway (Winchendon to Gardner).

Massachusetts Audubon features All Person's Trails at ten wildlife sanctuaries across the Commonwealth. These trails offer a quieter opportunity to observe nature with interpretive stations and sensory tours. You can also find accessible trails at Cape Cod National Seashore and in many town parks. It is well worth the effort to research accessible trails and plan your next outing!

Click on these links for more info:
Massachusetts State Parks
Massachusetts State Park Accessible Trails

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