As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most municipal parks and state forests and beaches provide flat, sturdy surfaces and handicap-accessible parking. But there’s still a lot of progress to be made to improve the region’s outdoor places so everybody can discover Buzzards Bay, regardless of their physical ability. Today, the vast majority of the region’s parks, trails, and beaches are not accessible to people with disabilities.
We’re committed to helping increase ADA accessibility when we have the opportunity to remake Buzzards Bay’s outdoor places – like at The Sawmill in Acushnet, which incorporates boardwalks and gravel paths to allow wheelchairs to access the property’s scenic river overlooks, nature-like fishway, and restored red maple swamp.
In addition to The Sawmill, these 25 places around southeastern Massachusetts include ADA-accessible features so people of all abilities can get outside and explore.
Parks and Trails
- The Sawmill (Acushnet): With slip-resistant aggregate paths that weave through the front half of this public park, The Sawmill offers an accessible place where people can watch wildlife that flourishes in Acushnet River and surrounding fields and wetlands.
- New Bedford’s green city parks: Both Buttonwood Park in the West End and Brooklawn Park in the North End have flat, paved pathways that run throughout the parks. These convenient urban retreats are green oases for many species of plants and wildlife, so bring along a field guide to help identify trees, songbirds, and other species.
- Coastal New Bedford: If you love the water and want to get some fresh air, then head to the South End of New Bedford. A band of accessible paved pathways runs for approximately five miles from New Bedford Harbor all the way around the Sound End peninsula to Clarks Cove. Enjoy a water view from up high atop the new Harbor Walk and Cove Walk paths, or continue down the Saulnier Memorial Bike Trail past the city’s beaches and boat ramps to Fort Taber Park’s spectacular Buzzards Bay vista.
- State forests (Freetown and Carver): For an all-abilities retreat to nature, head to one of the region’s state forests. Freetown-Fall River State Forest has ADA-accessible facilities at its headquarters in Freetown, where you can relax under the pines for a summer picnic. Over at Myles Standish State Forest in Carver and Plymouth, the Charge Pond beach is accessible, and miles of paved bike paths run along many of the main forest roads.
- Fairhaven/Mattapoisett bike paths: Stretching for more than five miles through forests, farm fields, salt marshes, and neighborhoods in Fairhaven and Mattapoisett, the Phoenix Bike Trail and Mattapoisett Rail Trail provide a safe, smooth paved route for wheelchairs, walkers, and hand cyclists. For a scenic extension, head down to Little Bay Conservation Area, where a small concrete pier offers scenic water views.
- Cape Cod Canal (Bourne): Seven miles of paved paths known as the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway border each side of the Cape Cod Canal, offering a place to enjoy the scenery of boats, anglers, and the canal’s iconic railroad bridge. The bikeway can be accessed from half a dozen recreation areas that offer ADA-accessible parking, including Buzzards Bay Recreation Area, Herring Run Recreation Area, Tidal Flats Recreation Area, and Bourne Recreation Area.
- Shining Sea Bikeway (Falmouth): This beautiful 10.7-mile paved multi-use path through Falmouth provides a close-up view of ponds, cedar swamps, salt marshes, cranberry bogs, and wooded uplands.
Several beaches around Buzzards Bay have ADA-accessible features, such as beach mats that allow wheelchairs to get onto the sand. Some even offer specialized beach wheelchairs, which have thicker wheels that can roll across the sand and reach the water.
- Horseneck Beach State Reservation (Westport): This essential Southcoast summer destination has many ADA-accessible features that allow everybody to enjoy the beach. A two-mile paved path follows the shell-littered shore, and mats have been placed across the sand. Horseneck also has ADA-accessible bathhouses, ramps, and parking, as well as beach wheelchairs and water floats.
- Demarest Lloyd State Park (Dartmouth): Horseneck’s quieter neighbor, Demarest Lloyd State Park, also has DCR-provided beach access mats and floating beach wheelchairs to make it easy for people of all abilities to enjoy these tranquil waters.
- West Beach (New Bedford): The amphibious beach wheelchair at this city beach allows adults and children with disabilities to enjoy the sand and the water.
- Fort Phoenix State Reservation (Fairhaven): Another DCR property, Fort Phoenix also has beach access mats and floating beach wheelchairs. In addition, you can head out over the paved walkway atop the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier to watch vessels steam in and out of the harbor.
- Falmouth town beaches: Falmouth is leading the way for ADA accessibility at the beach by offering beach mats, ramps, and wheelchairs at its popular town beaches, including Megansett Beach, Old Silver Beach, Chapoquoit Beach, and Wood Neck Beach. Make sure to call ahead to check on the availability of these resources; at some beaches, you need to order a beach wheelchair in advance before you go.
Looking for more ADA-accessible outdoor adventures? Check out organizations like CAPEable Adventures, which provides sporting and outdoor recreation opportunities such as kayaking, fishing, and hiking for physically and mentally challenged children and adults on Cape Cod. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Universal Access Program also holds a public fair each June, where you can find other organizations that offer accessible recreation opportunities and sign up for summer adventures.