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Sharing Our Open Spaces
The Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) oversees 450,000 acres of open space in Massachusetts. We spoke with Alexander Gillman, DCR’s Forest & Park Supervisor for the Western Region, to find out more about these open space treasures.
Tell us about the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation and its work throughout the year.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is a state agency that is all about getting people out to enjoy our shared natural and cultural places – special and treasured places. DCR connects the Commonwealth’s residents and visitors to the wonders, adventures and joys of our natural landscape across the breadth of our state from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. DCR is varied in its responsibilities, managing almost half a million acres across the Commonwealth’s state parks, state forests, historic and cultural sites, seashores, lakes, ponds, including protecting water supplies within watersheds and reservoirs. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound from hiking to biking, swimming, camping or simply sightseeing. Winter provides an opportunity to go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, looking for signs of wildlife from tracks in the snow, or even fat (tire) biking, snowmobiling and ice fishing.
What kind of programs do you offer during School Vacation Week (February 15-23)? Tell us about some of the popular programs for children.
Select state parks feature ongoing family programs during February school vacation week. This is a great time of year to escape the winter doldrums, visit a state park, and like the natural world around us, prepare for the arrival of spring!
Programs are offered all across the Commonwealth: from Walden Pond State Reservation to Borderland State Park; from Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park in Uxbridge to Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Fall.
For example – Mount Greylock State Reservation Visitor Center in Lanesborough is offering some special programs during School Vacation Week: from Winter Wildlife Tracking and Kid Friendly Mountain Mindfulness to Winter Tree Identification Hikes and Family Friendly Outdoor Adventures!
Visit DCR’s Programs and Events page to learn more about DCR events and programs.
Tell us about DCR’s Universal Access Program.
DCR is committed to getting people of all abilities into our parks through outdoor recreation activities and developing a healthy lifestyle. This has long-term benefits for both our health care system and overall quality of life in Massachusetts. DCR’s unique Universal Access Program is dedicated to ensuring equal access for everyone to enjoy outdoor recreation in Massachusetts state parks, striving for a culture of inclusion. Universal Access is always working to improve and update our parks and buildings to enable people of all abilities to visit and have meaningful experiences. We have the tools to facilitate this through specialized recreation equipment for people to use on hiking trails, beaches and skating rinks; and, we offer year-round adaptive recreation programs. Notice that DCR uses the terms “accessible” and “adaptive.” Accessible means a location or program meets the requirements of state and Federal accessibility standards. Adaptive means that an activity uses equipment and techniques that have been adapted to the user and their needs. You can learn more by visiting the DCR Universal Access Program’s website for accessible opportunities near you or inquire about creating an opportunity.
Tell us about the visitors who use the park system.
Local residents use DCR parks extensively. Any local you ask can probably tell you about their most special place in a DCR park.
By virtue of its history, culture and landscape visitors from all over New England, the United States, and around the world visit Massachusetts to enjoy its attractions. Consequently, they also visit our state parks – natural places, year-round. Visitors come from as far away as Europe, Australia and Asia. Guest books at our welcome desks can attest to the diversity of visitors from around the world. We invite visitors to tell us where they come from and about their impressions of their visit.
Based on visitor’s interests park staff can also be helpful to expand their experience by enjoying all that Massachusetts state parks and beyond has to offer.
It seems like DCR’s 12 visitor centers are a good place to start for people visiting from abroad. What can they expect to find?
Absolutley! Definitely spend some time exploring a DCR visitor center, beyond the basic need for a restroom. DCR Visitor Centers offer welcoming and friendly park staff that can provide meaningful insight into the properties we manage. Staff can also offer suggestions on how to best experience them. Some sites, like Walden Pond State Reservation exploring the story of Henry David Thoreau’s process of living simply and civil disobedience, are an international destination for visitors to Massachusetts, and may offer translated materials. Some staff may be able to speak other languages, but, for the most part, park staff make every effort to understand the needs of our visitors regardless of language barriers. They may provide printed information that be a tool to connecting with the site, or make other reasonable accommodations to communicate effectively, and make their visit meaningful and enjoyable.
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