Thursday, September 24, 2015

Spectacle Island Adventure in Boston

Thanks to Laila Soleimani for this second Guest Post with photos!

This month, I had the opportunity to go to an adaptive hiking program on Spectacle Island. The program, organized by Stavros Outdoor Access as part of the DCR Universal Access Program, allowed participants and their family and friends to enjoy a fabulous outing in Boston with gentle hiking and breathtaking views of the city’s skyline.

Spectacle Island, 114 acres and just 4 miles from Boston in Boston Harbor, is an accessible getaway open annually from May to Columbus Day weekend in October.  It’s a twenty minute ferry ride from Long Wharf and a perfect day trip for anyone interested in exploring. The ferry ride allows for a closer look at the gorgeous boats on the harbor and planes landing at Logan International Airport. We had clear sunny skies and perfect weather to do just this.

When we first arrived at Spectacle Island, we convened at the technologically green visitor center, where an interpreter taught us about the history of the island. Outside of the visitor center were big Adirondack chairs where some of us sat and lunched while taking in the sights. Given that Spectacle is the highest point in the harbor, there is quite a bit to see. It’s a tranquil change of pace from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
It’s hard to believe this island was once a garbage dump! Speaking of garbage, Spectacle is a “Take On/Take Off” island which means that any trash you bring onto the island, you are responsible for also taking off (yes Moms-that includes diapers too, so plan accordingly!). This is crucial to maintaining the cleanliness of the island, and to keeping costs down for visitors. The only service that you have to pay for is the ferry ride ($17)! Ranger tours are also a great way to learn more about the island’s history. The shaded tents with picnic tables are another fabulous spot to lunch or to provide relief from the sun, especially on humid summer days.
For accessible recreational opportunities on Spectacle Island, look no further than its beautiful sandy beach with an ADA mat which increases accessibility for wheelchair users and strollers. Beach wheelchairs are available, including one that floats in the water. During the summer season, lifeguards are on duty.  It is a perfect escape from the city to swim and soak up some sun. After drying off, you can change at one of the nearby changing stations, and explore the five miles of accessible trails!
Our group was able to enjoy a leisurely hike with mountain wheelchairs around the perimeter of the island. One participant did the hike in his power wheelchair. The group eventually divided into two, with half of us taking the long gradual uphill to the summit.  Yet another reason why Spectacle is a great accessible getaway- you can hike according to what is doable for you by taking the level path around the island perimeter or the more challenging path to the top.

Although Spectacle Island is very accessible, ferry access can be tricky. When our group first boarded the ferry and then the island, we successfully used the portable gangway ramp provided by the ferry company to step from the dock onto the boat and vice versa. However, on our way back to Long Wharf, the ferry didn’t have the gangway ramped ends - known as transition plates - as we had requested. This required teamwork to get wheelchair users onto the boat safely. This is a gray issue because although the dock is required to be accessible, the ferries are not due to their size (under 150 seats) and so access for all visitors is not currently reliable. Accessibility of the gangway ramp may vary, so call ahead to inform the ferry company if you use a wheelchair and make your return needs known while boarding for the best possible outcome.  DCR is working with the ferry company to improve the situation.

If you haven’t already visited Spectacle Island, make sure you do! It’s worth exploring. Make sure to check what times the ferry is operating and plan your day trip to this beautiful destination in Boston.

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