Friday, October 21, 2016

New Visitor Center at Walden Pond

Walden Pond is well known as the former haunt of famous American literary figure Henry David Thoreau. Once upon a time it was a rural area where Henry left the stresses of town life to live for 2 years, 2 months and 2 days during the mid-19th century in a simple one room cabin of his own creation. Nowadays, though one cannot fully escape the sounds of traffic in the forested area, Walden Pond State Reservation still offers beauty and tranquility to over 275,000 visitors per year, who come from all over the world for a grand mix of history, recreation, education and appreciation of Henry David Thoreau's native voice. A replica of Henry's cabin next to the parking lot offers visitors the chance to experience the space he built for under $30 in his day, with a statue of him nearby. Trails in the park can take you to the original cabin site, which is a celebrated national landmark.

A brand new visitor center is opening this fall at Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord, Massachusetts. I stopped in recently to find both the bathrooms and the Thoreau Society gift shop open in a stunningly beautiful and accessible new building. The exhibit area is still being worked on and is not open yet, but the park was well-attended by people checking out the building and walking the extensive beach created by the drought. A bald eagle was circling over the pond. Swimmers and paddlers were enjoying the sparkling water and peak autumn color. Walden Pond is a popular spot just outside of Boston that truly offers something enjoyable for everyone.

The terrain at Walden is challenging for full physical accessibility but many people with disabilities can enjoy some of  the beach and trails. The toughest spot in the main area of public use is the hill down to the swimming beach which can be walked or rolled on via a wide paved path. The beach can be accessed by car from the boat launch which has a small gravel and dirt parking area with some designated more accessible spots. Traversing the parking lot to the beach involves a gradual grade and some bumpiness over a short distance. The shoreline is hard packed for the most part and likely a relatively easy walking surface for many. The park has beach wheelchairs which require someone to push that are for use on the beach.

Park staff have also introduced a trails wheelchair this year which can be self-propelled or pushed by others. The trails at Walden are generally well worn and wide on moderate terrain with some rocks, roots and steeper grades. While some people with disabilities may find these trails manageable, others are likely to require assistance and/or adaptive equipment. For further information, contact Walden Pond park staff at 978-369-3254.

Walden Pond State Reservation is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). DCR's Universal Access Program offers adaptive hiking programs at various state parks and typically comes to Walden Pond once a year. For further information on adaptive hiking programs, contact DCR's Universal Access Program at 413-545-5758. 

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