Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Acton and Arnold Arboretums Accessible to All

Thanks to Marjorie Turner Hollman for her second Guest Post and for keeping us informed about great accessible places to visit and enjoy nature!

My husband and I used to visit the Acton (MA) Arboretum often in our courting days. It had been a while since we last visited, but we stopped there recently and found some positive changes in this 64-acre town-owned arboretum. Much remains the same: shady paths, a ramp with railings through a wetlands area, and herb gardens. The boardwalk over a quaking bog offers interesting sights and exciting views of diverse plant life (if you love swamps). Throughout the arboretum are lots of both sunny and shady spots to simply rest and enjoy being there. And if you’re a fan of shade-loving hosta plants, you’ll have the opportunity to study 150 different varieties.

In the past, the trails were all crushed stone or woodland paths. But on our most recent visit, we found some paths that are still crushed stones, but many of the trails that lead from the main parking area off Taylor Road in Acton are now paved. We also found a handicapped-accessible port-a-potty next to the parking lot (available from May-November). The Acton Arboretum information kiosk (and website) notes that numerous other accessibility improvements are in the works. Great news all.

These improvements in no way detract from the arboretum experience. Rather, they make this delightful spot just off Rt. 2 in Acton even more usable for everyone, regardless of mobility status. The website for the Acton Arboretum provides extensive information about what is planned, and what is now available.
The Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, is part of the Emerald Necklace of Boston and is overseen by Harvard University. It is much better known than its cousin in Acton. Paved paths traverse the entire 281-acre arboretum, and many trees and shrubs have permanent tags affixed, indicating Latin and common names. Trees of similar species are grouped together, allowing for interesting comparisons of growth patterns, flowers, and fruits of different species.

The Arnold offers stunning views of Boston from its highest point and is justly famous for the lilacs that line some of its paths. There is even a “Lilac Sunday” festival every May—but be prepared for huge crowds on that one day. Musical concerts, storytelling events, and more are featured throughout the year at the arboretum. Check their website for what is coming up.

You’ll find bonsai plantings on the Arnold’s grounds in a designated spot. The trees, some of which are 200 years old and older, have been carefully nurtured over the years by generations of caretakers who have gently bent, twisted and curbed the growth of these amazing and beautiful little trees.

Handicapped parking spots are right outside the fenced-off entrance to the Arnold. If needed, permits are available to allow you, for limited times, to drive the paved paths of the arboretum itself.

Whether you enjoy the feeling of a park in the midst of the city, or would rather experience a garden with a more country-like feel, the Acton and Arnold arboretums are both great places to visit, regardless of the season.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed two guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, Easy Walks in Massachusetts, and More Easy Walks in Massachusetts. A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! Chapter Coordinator for the Association of Personal Historians New England Chapter, she is a Certified Legacy Planner with, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project.

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