It was a day of joy as adaptive cycling came to the Blackstone River Greenway in Blackstone for those with special needs of many kinds. The event was in the planning stages back when snow was on the ground last January. That’s how long it takes to get this many moving parts lined up, making sure everything will run smoothly. And in fact everything did come together. Many of us understand the woman who came back from her ride and said, “My face hurts from smiling!” Indeed, others of us felt the same way from smiling all day.
In fact, this day that both All Out Adventures and MA DCR Universal Access Program brought their trailers full of adaptive bikes, there were a ton of moving parts in the vans. From the vans emerged adaptive cycles of all types: tandems, hand cycles, tri-cycles, bikes made to carry passengers on the front of them, as well as one tandem that looked quite familiar to me–
a Sun brand Brickell tandem bicycle with foot-forward pedals that is the twin to the adaptive bike I ride with my husband on so many of our outings as a family.
This was the first public invitation adaptive cycling event at the Blackstone River Greenway in Blackstone, MA, organized by the Blackstone Heritage Corridor. People came from near and far to take advantage of the free program, paid for by a grant to All Out Adventures from the Great Worcester Community Foundation.
School children from a special needs program in Scituate, RI came by bus for a special field trip to the Blackstone Valley to join us, and found a warm welcome from all the staff and volunteers who had gathered to make the day a success. Others came from Worcester, Rehoboth, while some came from right around the corner.
Elders came from a nearby assisted living facility. Several folks came in wheelchairs–some older, some not so old,
but all came in hopes they could be included in the event.
Visual impairment was no barrier to participation since the multiple tandem bikes provided just what was needed to safely bring those with low vision out on the trail, partnered with members of the Bike Ambassadors group.
A few folks were anxious, not having been on a bike in years, while others had never had the chance to ride a bike.
And others took to the bikes like a duck on water.
It was not a simple matter to assure that each person was fitted exactly as needed to the bike that would work for them, but with patience and careful listening, we found a way to allow everyone who wanted to participate the chance to try. All Out Adventures had velcro in multiple forms, foam wedges to help make riders comfortable, and bike tools galore, and since the goal was to get outdoors and have fun, rather than to complete a race, it was all good. Heritage Corridor Bike Ambassadors in their bright orange jackets stood ready to partner with any and all participants to offer whatever help was needed.
All Out Adventures, based in Northampton, MA had provided a free training for the Bike Ambassadors of the Blackstone Heritage Corridor last spring.
We learned about fitting helmets, adjusting pedals, helping riders safely get on and off the bikes and much more.
But we also got acquainted with the staff, who came to the Blackstone River Greenway and were greeted as old friends. We had done this before. What joy to be able to work together again to bring this opportunity to the Blackstone Valley.
And joy was the key word. People of good will planned their day around this event, many got up quite early to be there on time, and everyone stayed for as long as they were able. Others who had not heard about the event just happened to be visiting the bike path and ventured over, curious about what all this was about. We made new friends, probably recruited some new volunteers to the Bike Ambassador program, and strengthened friendships that had already been established from time spent together at other events.
Bonnie Combs, another staff member of the Heritage Corridor commented, “If you looked up the word, ‘joy’ in the dictionary, you’d find this picture.”
Suzanne Buchanan, Volunteer Coordinator for the Heritage Corridor, as well as chief cheerleader and Bike Ambassador herself,
arranged for added historical interpretation along the trail.
She contacted Dave Barber, local canal expert, to be on hand near the Millville Lock
to offer insights into the Blackstone Canal and the history behind this important facet of the valley’s heritage.
Margaret Carroll waited near the stone church on Central Street at the Bikeway parking area for riders to visit and learn about the history of Millville. Dave, Margaret, and Val Stegemoen, a retired park ranger himself, spent the entire day making themselves available to interested visitors as they came through on the railtrail.
It seems Suzanne had thought of everything–there was even a porta-a potty, donated by ADC Septic, that allowed for the many volunteers to remain throughout the day to be ready as three different groups of participants showed up to enjoy the trail.
What we heard, almost without exception, was,”When can we do this again?” The adaptive cycling program continues in other parts of the state throughout the summer, but we trust that it will be sooner than later when the adaptive cycling program returns once again to the Blackstone Valley.
Throughout the summer the Bike Ambassadors will be cycling through the valley. The Trail Ambassadors will also be offering outing for those with varying abilities. Be sure to check the Heritage Corridor’s website for details about all the exciting offerings available in the Blackstone Valley this summer. We cannot promise that all the events are completely handicapped accessible, nor that they will be as joy-filled as this one event was, but we can promise that there are people of good will who are working to make opportunities available to everyone who is interested. Come see for yourself!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then