Barre Falls Dam Picnic Area: An Outdoor Developed Area "Making the Grade" in Hubbarston, MA

Spring time brings a flurry of activity to our parks and recreation areas. As people return to the parks en masse, recreation providers hustle to make improvements to their sites. As park staff undertake spring projects, consider the Barre Falls Dam example and take a proactive approach towards providing accessibility. "We had picnic tables with no seats. People with disabilities would come with their families and the family members would have no where to sit." Ralph Gendron, Project Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, refers to the picnic site recently completed at Barre Falls Dam in Hubbardston, Massachusetts.

At many recreation areas, picnicking is the most popular activity for visitors; and site managers must devise a way to make their picnic areas accessible. At the east end of Barre Falls Dam, Ralph Gendron and his staff have created an accessible picnic area that takes into account all elements of the site. The staff, including former and current project managers, the operations manager and the park ranger, understands the need for accessibility and for providing access to the widest range of people. Rather than wait for a complaint, the staff took initiative to make accessibility improvements which include: picnic tables, a rotating pedestal grill and an information kiosk.

The two square pedestal picnic tables have had two seats removed for wheelchair accessible seating. The accessible tables were purchased from Iron Mountain Forge, at the same cost as non-accessible tables. Barre Falls Dam staff used to make their own tables on site, but according to Gendron, buying from a reputable vendor results in reduced liability concerns, reduced project time and "a much better product."

Stone dust, a by-product of granite, was the original surface at the site, but it was soon replaced with concrete when staff noticed visitors having difficulty maneuvering on the material. Additionally, the maintenance schedule for stone dust includes redressing several times per month and an annual replenishment; therefore the site staff expects to recoup the cost of the concrete installation ($1900) in reduced maintenance materials and labor costs.

Unlike picnic elements commonly misplaced at other public recreation sites, the grill and kiosk at Barre Falls Dam were placed on a firm and stable surface (concrete) to allow for access around all sides of the elements.

Picnic/Bulletin Board Plan:

The pedestal grill is located on the same pad as the picnic tables, while a concrete path connects the picnic area to the bulletin board. The bulletin board provides park information to visitors. The bulletin board brochure racks are located 32 inches above the ground; a height that is within the reach range of children and adults, and people with or without disabilities.

"When planning our projects, we try to think family," indicates Gendron. "In addition to wheelchairs, we have strollers, small children, elderly folks, and the not-so-physically-fit." During the improvement project, facility staff received suggestions and remarks from visitors with disabilities. The planning team took the opportunity to speak with visitors about their interests and needs and then incorporate the information into the site plan.

The site plan for the accessible picnic area and bulletin board is available here on the NCA website as a resource for recreational professionals during site accessibility improvements.

Special thanks to William Rogers and Ralph Gendron, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for submitting this best practice for inclusion in NCA's "Making the Grade."


Ralph Gendron
Project Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Barre Falls Dam
Hubbardston, MA 01452
Phone: (978) 928-4712

Iron Mountain Forge
PO Box 897
Farmington MO 63640
Toll Free: (800) 325-8828


The citation for this article is: 

National Center on Accessibility.  (June 27, 2002). Barre Falls Dam Picnic Area: An Outdoor Developed Area "Making the Grade" in Hubbarston, MA.  Making the Grade. Indiana University-Bloomington: National Center on Accessibility.