Perkins President and CEO Dave Power joined state and local officials on July 21 to break ground on Watertown's new Riverfront Park Braille Trail – a pioneering project that will make the tranquil beauty of the Charles River accessible to people with visual impairments.
The trail, part of the new Watertown Riverfront Park, is the result of seven years of planning between Perkins, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and numerous local organizations.
"This park is another connection in the fabric that has tied Perkins and the Watertown community together for a long time," said Power. "Not only will our own students be able to come here and experience the sensory park, but all those in Watertown and the surrounding areas who are blind or visually impaired will be able to take advantage of it."
The quarter-mile Braille Trail is located in a swath of parkland along the riverbank at the east end of Charles River Road. It will have numerous accessibility features to help sight-impaired visitors navigate, including a guide wire fitted with beads to indicate seating, stations for texture and ecological zones and braille signage.
The trail will circle a sensory garden that includes stone walls and a canoe-like boat that visitors can climb on. The trail is expected to open for the public by early spring 2015.
Perkins alum and long-time Watertown resident Al Gasper is enthusiastic about the positive changes to the waterfront the project will bring about. "I'm quite familiar with what it was and what it is and what it's going to be," he said. "People are going to get a lot of enjoyment out of it."
The Perkins Secondary Chorus kicked off the groundbreaking ceremony with a harmonized version of the national anthem. Dignitaries speaking at the event included DCR Commissioner Jack Murray, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett, State Senator William Brownsberger, State Representative Jonathan Hecht and Watertown Director of Community Development Stephen Magoon.
The trail is modeled after the accessible trail at Mass Audubon's Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center in Worcester. It is the first phase of a multi-phase effort to upgrade and improve the paths and parklands between Watertown Square and the Watertown Yacht Club.
View more photos of Watertown's Riverfront Park & Braille Trail groundbreaking »