LeeAnn LaRue worked as a seasonal recreation assistant for DCR’s Universal Access Program this summer. As an avid outdoors person and mother of a person with a disability, she offers this accessible review of a favorite camping and recreational area. Thanks LeeAnn for this Guest Post!
|Open water for paddling among islands at Tully Lake|
Tully Lake Campground and Tully Recreation Area are two locations in north central Massachusetts that have several features that make them inviting for those with disabilities. Located in Royalston, MA, the surrounding forest and lake with its several islands are full of beauty and recreational possibilities for all. Recently, Tully Lake Campground has been featured online in the Boston Globe, Yankee Magazine, and in AMC Outdoors Magazine as a great spot for family-friendly, tent-only camping and non-motorized boating in a pristine area.
Tully Lake Campground is located at the base of Doane’s Falls and is surrounded on three sides by the beautiful Tully Lake. Its campground offers two accessible campsites and accessible restrooms. The terrain to get to the accessible campsites is a gravel/dirt road which may be challenging but do-able for those in a wheelchair. The two handicapped parking spots are near the path to the accessible sites.
Upon close inspection, the two sites are about 80 yards and 164 yards from the parking area. This distance might be a challenge for those who are not so athletic but with a little help can be accomplished. The campfire ring is ADA approved which means it is higher for easy access. Picnic tables at these two sites are accessible and meet the ADA guidelines. One of the accessible sites has direct access to the water, however the path - although gently sloped - is not wide enough for a wheelchair to pass. The restrooms are accessible, clean, and a ramp leads to the doors.
Having walked around a good portion of the campgrounds I discovered that most of the campsites are accessible by wheelchair with wide pine needle covered paths through the mixed forest. The terrain is low rolling hills. The drawback to these other sites is that they are farther away from the parking area and getting gear there would be more of a challenge. The campfire pits and tables are not accessible to code.
|Tully River near the canoe launch offers a peaceful|
water trail with wildlife viewing potential.
Another thing to note would be that the ranger station - where you need to check in - is not accessible. In talking with operations manager Keith Bockus, I discovered that few individuals who use the accessible sites are in real need of them and those who do need them are mostly ambulatory to some extent. From my own personal experience with the staff, they are very helpful and do what they can to assist in any way. Keith suggested calling ahead and letting them know if you would need some assistance but keep in mind that Friday evenings are check-in time for weekend campers and available staff will be limited.
Also at the campground are kayak and canoe rentals where several tandem kayaks are available. There is a gentle slope to the water but there are a few stairs so this would only be available to those who are ambulatory or capable of navigating steps. If you had friends with you who could help, you could rent the kayak or canoe at the campground and have your friends bring them into the water and paddle to another canoe launch across the street. A relatively flat dirt parking area allows easier entry into the water craft and there are portapotties in the lot, one of which is an ADA unit. Though it may not be entirely flush with the ground it should be level enough to get in with assistance if needed.
|Accessible route to picnic pavilion in the Recreation Area|
Right up the road is accessible hiking up to lower Doane’s Falls and upper Doane’s Falls. Handicapped parking is available near each area. The wide gently sloping path of wood chips brings you right to the base of Doane’s lower falls where you can enjoy the views and mist of the roaring falls. The upper falls view is spectacular as you observe the brook as it travels through a picturesque stone arch bridge.
Just around the corner from the campground is Tully Lake Recreation Area. This day use area is the most accessible at Tully and was built and is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There are accessible picnicking, restrooms, hiking and fishing, plus an accessible pavilion and boat launch area. This is a great location to spend the day enjoying the natural beauty and diverse environments of the Lake and surrounding area.