Draft: This list is a work-in-progress. We are compiling a list of accessible birding locations, primarily in the Boxborough, Mass. area, but also more generally in Massachusetts and southern New England. Options range from short easy walks, to spots that are suitable for car birding, to trails that have been designed to be fully ADA-accessible. Suggestions and corrections to the list and descriptions are welcome through the Contact page.
Beaver Brook Road, Boxborough
Beaver Brook Road, which winds through the Cisco office complex in Boxborough, has a variety of habitats that attract birds, including open fields, small ponds, and office park plantings. There is a long paved sidewalk that parallels the road, which has little traffic outside of office hours. The area is also suitable for car birding.
The Acton Arboretum features beautiful gardens and is a wonderful place to find warblers and other migrants in the spring. Near the main parking lot, the Orchard Loop (¼ mile) and the Wildflower Loop (½ mile) trails are accessible with minor obstacles (wide, smooth trails made of crushed stone or paved asphalt). At the other end of the Arboretum, there is an ADA-accessible bog boardwalk at the Acton Arboretum, with observation area and bench, and a wheelchair turn-around at the end of the boardwalk. The boardwalk is reached by parking at Conant Elementary School (less than a quarter mile away), with a paved walkway and crosswalk leading to the Minot Ave. entrance. In between, the trails are not accessible.
Assabet River Rail Trail, Acton to Marlboro
The northern end of the trail in Acton, about 0.7 miles between Maple Street in South Acton and the former Beacon building (20 Main Street), provides some good accessible birding and wildlife viewing. A bridge across the Mill Pond section of the Fort Pond Brook offers views of water birds, and the boardwalk at 20 Main offers close views of the trees next to the artificial ponds (where there are also turtles). Parking (including 2 accessible spots) is available off Maple Street at the north end of the trail and at the end of Sylvia Street (but no trail parking at 20 Main Street). The MBTA Commuter Rail provides convenient access to the trail at the South Acton train station. There is also good viewing of the Assabet River from stretches of the trail in Maynard.
NARA Park, Acton
Nathaniel Allen Recreation Area (NARA) Park in Acton features a swimming beach, amphitheater, sports fields, and walking trails. The 25 Ledge Rock Way parking lot offers designated ADA parking spots. From there you can take a half-mile trail that loops around a pond. The trail is paved with a short portion on a wooden boardwalk that crosses a marshy area at one end of the pond. The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail can be reached from the same parking lot.
Ice House Pond, Acton
Ice House Pond is located on Concord Road in Acton, near Morrison Farm. It is a short walk from the parking lot down to the water (a boat ramp), which is good mainly for seeing waterfowl, herons, etc. You can also get a view of the pond from the sidewalk along Concord Road. For a longer trip, there is also access to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.
Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, Hudson, Maynard, Stow, Sudbury
The Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge encompasses a variety of habitats including forests, fields, and wetlands. It is a good place for viewing nesting great blue herons. In addition to the main entrance in Hudson, there are entrances in Stow and Maynard. White Pond Road and Winterberry Way are paved roads, and although they are gated to exclude cars, they are wide and relatively flat. The most accessible part of the refuge is Winterberry Way which has a sidewalk, and there is an accessible ramp that leads down to a dock overlooking Puffer Pond. In some parts of the refuge, however, beavers have flooded the trails.
Delaney Wildlife Management Area, Stow/Bolton
Delaney Wildlife Management Area is an Important Bird Area (IBA), which includes a flood control pond that can be viewed from the parking lot and boat ramp on Harvard Road. The pond attracts a wide variety of birds, including ducks, geese, swans, herons, and eagles. Hunting is permitted so it is important to be aware of hunting seasons.
Liberty Fields, Boxborough
One of the regular Boxborough Birders activities is to watch for migrating common nighthawks in late August from Liberty Fields on Liberty Square Road in Boxborough. This can be done right from the parking lot; no walking is required. Woodcock can also be seen or heard at Liberty Fields in the spring.
Rolling Meadows, Boxborough
One of the most reliable places in the area to view woodcocks is Rolling Meadows on Littlefield Road in Boxborough. Every spring (March and April) the male woodcocks put on a courtship display that can be viewed from the field by the entrance. Although Rolling Meadows is not fully accessible, it is only a very short walk to the field, and with a chair one can watch and hear the displays while seated.
Flerra Meadows, Boxborough
Flerra Meadows is mostly conservation land, but 5 acres are municipal recreation land with soccer fields, a baseball diamond, and playground. It can be busy, but there can be good birding. Bluebirds and bobolinks breed here. There are varied habitats – two ponds, a brook, hayfields, meadows, and wooded areas. Trails are not wheelchair accessible, but make for easy walking. There is a short easy dirt trail through woods from South Cemetery (corner of Burroughs and Stow Roads) to Flerra Meadows. Or access via Stow Road or from the parking area inside the main entrance. A flat, 1-mile main trail loops around the property. Some birding can also be done by car from the parking area.
Great Meadows, Concord
Great Meadows in Concord is one of the top inland birding spots in Massachusetts. There is one designated accessible space in the paved parking lot off Monsen Road at the southwest end of the trail. It is van-accessible with a striped access aisle. The trail surface is wooden boardwalks (with railings), gravel, or a natural surface, typically at least 5 feet wide. The estimated grade is flat (1% or less). All-terrain tires or motorized equipment may be needed for the mostly unpaved surface type. There are benches and picnic tables along the route for resting. Check in advance about seasonal flooding that can make trails impassable. Fee: $5
Meriam’s Corner, Battle Road, Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord
Meriam’s Corner in Concord is the site where the Battle Road begins, but it is also a birding hotspot. While exploring the park there are many sections of paved and non-paved trail accessible to those with limited mobility. Accessible parking and restrooms are also available. The Minute Man Visitor Center, near the other end of the Battle Road, can be reached by MBTA bus.
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island, Newburyport
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island is a premier birding destination. There are new fully-accessible trails at the Hellcat Boardwalk Loop, and the Pines. In addition Hellcat Dike would be suitable for someone with limited mobility, and the road through the refuge is suitable for car birding, especially the Salt Pans. The bird blind is supposed to be accessible, but with the phragmites, there is not much to view. Note that the road to the Pines (past Hellcat) is often closed when it’s muddy and is not plowed when it snows. Rest rooms are located in parking lots 1 (at the entrance, seasonal) and 4 (at Hellcat, year-round) as well as at the refuge maintenance area and are wheelchair accessible.
Mass Audubon Sanctuaries
Many of Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries, including Drumlin Farm in Lincoln and Broadmoor in Natick, now feature universally accessible trails. These short trails meet or exceed Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, and also incorporate universally designed interpretive features.
Athol Bird and Nature Club’s guide to where persons of limited mobility can explore quality birding/nature sites in and around Athol, in Central Massachusetts.
Other Rail Trails
- Nashua River Rail Trail: Stretching more than 12 miles between Ayer, MA and Nashua, NH, the trail winds its way through wetlands and waterways. Popular areas for wildlife viewing along the trail include Pepperell Pond, J. Harry Rich State Forest, and Groton School Pond. Fully ADA-compliant parking is available at some of the access points in Ayer, Pepperell, Dunstable and Hollis, NH. Parking areas in Groton at Station Ave. and at Sand Hill Rd. provide reasonably good accessibility but there are currently no designated handicap parking spaces.
- Bruce Freeman Rail Trail: From Lowell Concord and eventually to Framingham
- Minuteman Bikeway
The Birdability Project works to ensure the birding community and the outdoors are welcoming, inclusive, safe and accessible for everybody. The web site offers many resources, including the Birdability Map (a crowd-sourced map of accessible birding locations, with details of the accessibility features of them). Also check out their page on Adaptive Birding Equipment.