Lonely Planet Writer

A Boston park opens with a braille trail and sensory garden

The unseasonably warm weather across much of the New England has prompted people to head outdoors this fall, and a new park near Boston beckons those of all ages and abilities. The Watertown Riverfront Park and Braille Trail is situated on the Charles River in the eponymous Boston suburb, and was uniquely designed to be accessible to the whole community.

Brail trail markers
Brail trail markers in the Watertown Riverfront Park.   Image by Sasaki

Located just a few hundred feet away from the Perkins School for the Blind, the green space once in need of a restoration now features a quarter mile braille trail — with a guide cable for helping visually impaired visitors navigate the park — that circles a sensory garden. The garden, which will appeal to senses of touch, hearing and smell, is dotted with wooden boats, a musical marimba bench, and stone walls. The guide cable has wooden markers with braille signage that indicate seating, ecological zones, and other points of interest along the trail, and granite markers display facts about local fish and Native American artefacts discovered nearby in both braille and print. Wide trails also accommodate bikes and wheelchairs.

The park features a quarter mile braille trail.
The park features a quarter mile braille trail. Image by Sasaki

Artist Mitch Ryerson designed the sensory garden, and designed and built the wooden boats, furnishings, and natural structures incorporated in the park. “The Braille Trail is the result of an amazing collaboration between progressive public officials, architects, tradespeople, artists and end users,” Ryerson tells Lonely Planet. “The idea of a restored park that had as one of its major goals the inclusion of the blind community seemed to excite everyone involved. This site along a particularly beautiful stretch of the Charles provided a wonderful opportunity to engage all the senses, not just sight. Sound, smell, touch and even taste are all important parts of the experience here.”

Braile markers are dotted around the park.
Braile markers are dotted around the park. Image by Sasaki

Helmed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Sasaki Associates and Chester Engineers designed the park with helpful input from the Perkins School for the Blind.

The entrance to Watertown Riverfront Park
The entrance to Watertown Riverfront Park Image by Sasaki

“Increasing access to the Commonwealth [of Massachusetts]’s natural, cultural and recreational resources for people of all abilities to enjoy remains a high priority of our administration,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement. “I am excited for the opening of the Watertown Riverfront Park and Braille Trail, where visitors can appreciate the seamless blending of the park’s features with the natural surroundings for years to come.”