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Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor: Accessible Recreation and Physical Activity

Posted by on May 8th, 2020 Posted in: Funded Project
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In 2019-2020, NER provided funding to Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor to increase knowledge about importance of physical activity for individuals with disabilities; increase access to recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, moving toward universal access to recreation; and build relationships between disability communities and recreation communities. This blog post is an excerpt from the final report submitted to NER. 

On July 18, 2019, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine provided MedlinePlus training at Blackstone Heritage Corridor (BHC) headquarters. Twelve staff and volunteers took advantage of this opportunity. NER demonstrated using MedlinePlus for a variety of health concerns.

Throughout August, All Out Adventures offered five opportunities to train on providing support for adaptive kayaking. All Out Adventures (AOA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports adaptive outdoor adventures. Volunteers were required to attend at least one training session prior to the BHC Adaptive Kayaking programs. Trainings involved: safety briefing, unloading equipment boast, paddling participants in tandem kayaks, unloading participants from kayaks, and packing up equipment after each program.

Blackstone Heritage Corridor Marketing Director Bonnie Combs promoted the four adaptive kayaking sessions on social media, in the BHC newsletter and in several local newspapers (Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Blackstone Valley Tibuen, Millbury-Sutton Chronical, New Uxbridge Times, RINOW.News, Upton Mendon Crier and The Valley Breeze).

Marjorie Turner Hollman, BHC volunteer, wrote about her experiences in her blog

BHC photographer Bob Evans made a fly-over video of the September 14th event.

Our volunteers came from the Volunteers-in-Parks program of the National Park Service. They welcomed and registered our participants, unloaded all of the equipment, cleaned the kayaks between each paddle, loaded the van and kayak trailer, all with smiles on their faces, knowing they had made a difference in someone’s life that day. And we developed partnerships with All Out Adventures, Blackstone Valley Paddle Club, Rhode Island Canoe & Kayak Association, Millbury Federal Credit Union and Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Lessons Learned!

Just before the second session, we were notified that Douglas State Forest was listed in a “critical zone” for Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). As a result, the remaining three sessions were relocated to Lake Quinsigamond State Park in Worcester, MA. Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation reissued permits, opened restrooms and waived parking fees for participants and volunteers. The press was notified and notices were pushed out through social media.

Several people interested in participating were reluctant during the EEE threat. We adjusted our program and gave volunteers additional on-water training. We used this opportunity to demonstrate using MedlinePlus to locate information about EEE.

Project Lead Suzanne Buchanan tells us that many hands make for a light load! This program had strong support from outstanding partners. All Out Adventures supplied trained staff and all the adaptive equipment. The Blackstone Valley Paddle Club and the Rhode Island Canoe & Kayak Association supplied knowledgeable volunteers to assist with paddling. Millbury Federal Credit Union kicked off our first program. Six employees were given a day of pay to volunteer. They provided healthy refreshments. Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation issued (and reissued) permits, waived parking fees and opened restrooms. The Volunteers-in-Parks program of the National Park Service were the glue to the entire program. Total volunteer contribution for the entire program was 365 volunteer hours. Twenty-eight volunteers covered multiple shifts. Blackstone Heritage Corridor will maintain these partnerships in future adaptive programming. 

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NNLM New England Region
University of Massachusetts Medical School
55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, MA 01655
(508) 856-5985

This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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