Thursday, March 17, 2016

12 Sensory Trails in Massachusetts Ready to Visit

There are now a dozen wheelchair accessible sensory trails in Massachusetts! For so long we only had one trail at Cape Cod National Seashore. Now a dozen trails are scattered across the Commonwealth and three more are on the way to being completed!

I got to share this exciting news last week at the FOCUS Conference for people with Visual Impairments and Blindness last week in Norwood, Massachusetts. It was so much fun to be the bearer of good news, along with Jerry Berrier. Jerry and I contributed to the Mass Audubon project which has put most of these sensory trails in place since 2009. I provided initial consultation, staff training and contacts from the disability community for testing concepts and completed trails. Jerry provided consultation as a blind birder and trail user as well as recording all the audio tours for the 10 (soon to be 14) trail project.

All but one of the recently developed sensory trails are located at Mass Audubon sanctuaries. The trails now have navigational systems, Braille signage and audio tours highlighting trail features that engage the senses at several stops. The trails are wheelchair accessible, start from the visitor center and travel up to a mile. Most are in the 1/2 mile range and connect to trail networks. They are a wonderful pathway for users of all ages and abilities to get closer to nature.

The Mass Audubon Sensory Trails are easy to research at Large print trail guides and audio tours can be downloaded from the website. Sensory trails are at the following locations:

Greater Boston
Blue Hills Reservation, Milton
Boston Nature Center, Mattapan
Broadmoor Sanctuary, Natick
Drumlin Farm, Lincoln

South East
Attleboro Springs, Attleboro
North River - South Shore, Marshfield
Stony Brook, Norfolk
Wellfleet Bay, Wellfleet

Broad Meadow Brook, Worcester

Arcadia Sanctuary, Easthampton
Pleasant Valley Sanctuary, Lenox

In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation has recently constructed a Braille Trail in Watertown along the Charles River. It is located on Charles River Road at Irving Street, where there is ample parking along the road just east of Watertown Square. From there it is a short walk toward the river to access a post and guide rope system along a well-established wide shaded footpath.

The trail loops back to Irving Street providing a navigated distance of a quarter mile or so. In the middle of the loop is a delightful Sensory Garden with several weather resistant wonders enjoyable at any time of year. Two rowboats are permanently fixed in the garden, representing some of the history along the river. They can be used for seating as well as tactile exploration. There is also a large xylophone built on a fallen tree and other intriguing sculptural elements on site. An adjacent picnic area allows for more relaxed enjoyment of the river side, but be aware there are no public bathrooms here.

Mass Audubon has more in the works - sensory rrails yet to be completed are at Habitat in Belmont, Wachusett Meadow in Princeton, and Allens Pond in Dartmouth.

In working so diligently on this trail project, Mass Audubon has become a national resource in best practices for developing sensory trails. In response to a high volume of inquiries, Mass Audubon is currently working on a publication for those interested in constructing sensory trails. For further information, contact