Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Accessible Parks in NE Massachusetts

This accessible picnic spot along the Ipswich
River offers a sense of privacy and beautiful view.
I visited two state parks last week that I highly recommend for access to the outdoors.

Both are located north of Boston in Massachusetts. Breakheart Reservation is a rocky forested area with ponds just north of the big city in Saugus. Bradley Palmer State Park is a former estate along the Ipswich River in Topsfield. These parks offer wonderful opportunities to enjoy nature through the seasons.

Breakheart Reservation was named by some lonely soldiers posted there during the Civil War era I learned from a fellow hiker. We shared the task of pulling a participant in a rickshaw style mountain wheelchair during a Universal Access hiking program through the park. Traveling along the two mile paved road loop through the park I was reminded that the road makes the park quite accessible, even with some hilly terrain. Indeed we passed someone walking using a rolling walker and another person using a cane for stability. It was great to see people with many levels of mobility using the park road that day.

Park programs take place year round from the Visitor
Center, including maple sugaring, hikes, and movies.
Breakheart Reservation also features the Christopher Dunn Visitor Center - an Adirondack style building with exhibits and big rocking chairs inside and a sheltered porch on the outside. Nearby is a wheelchair accessible pavilion, campfire spot, exercise area and picnic shelter. There is a boardwalk to the beach at Franklin Lake and a beach wheelchair available to traverse the sand. Lovely views of water await those who can make their way onto various trails to hike by ponds and atop rocky knolls that show the coastline.

Bradley Palmer State Park is popular for horseback riding along old roads and trails once belonging to Willowdale Estate. Horses are re-routed from using the half- mile long wheelchair accessible trail next to the Ipswich River. This forested trail offers an accessible picnic spot along the way with a lovely view of the narrow river where kayakers may paddle by. The trail passes through a wetland, field edge and hemlock stand before ending at an accessible bridge that crosses the river.

Also at Bradley Palmer you'll find an accessible wading pool with spray features and playground station open in the summer months. The wading pool is a popular spot for young families and is tucked off the beaten path, offering a sense of back yard-like privacy compared to larger public places. Lifeguards are on duty during hours of operation and there is an accessible bathhouse, plus a beach wheelchair should anyone prefer to use it. A mother I met in the park that day declared Bradley Palmer to be her favorite place to bring her 11 year old daughter in her wheelchair.

No comments: