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Upper Charles Trail Being Improved for Visually Impaired

The Milford Commission on Disability plans to make a section of the Upper Charles Trail along Louisa Lake the first bike path/walkway in the state that visually impaired persons can enjoy. Beals and Thomas, Inc.

The popular Upper Charles Trail will soon become the first bike path/walkway in Massachusetts with features installed to allow the visually impaired to enjoy it. That's the message delivered by Harold Rhodes, chair of the Milford Commission on Disability, the Board of Selectmen on March 21.

Starting at the Louisa Lake parking lot – where a new kiosk will offer trail information in English and in Braille – roughly a mile and a half of the trail will have "tactile plates" and accessible benches added and taped programs will describe information on the history of the trail, geographical facts, bird listening and wildlife information as well as information on Milford's famous granite quarries, Rhodes explained. The improvements are scheduled to be completed by the end of August, he said.

The new features will make the bike path "a trail that would be the first bike path/walkway for the visually impaired in Massachusetts," Rhodes said. Funds for the work are being raised by the Friends of the Milford Upper Charles Trail and being taken from the fines levied on people who illegally park in handicapped-designated parking spaces, he explained.

"This is the most meaningful project in all that we've done," he said, referring to his nearly three-year tenure as the commission's chair. He described his reason for making that statement: "It's cooperative and collaborative across all town departments," Rhodes said. "We're doing this as a town working together," he continued, naming all of the groups helping out on the project: the Upper Charles Trail Committee, the Friends of the Milford Upper Charles Trail, Town Engineer Vonnie Reis, Highway Surveyor Scott Crisafulli, the Commission on Disability, the Parks Department and the Beals and Thomas, Inc. civil engineering firm in Southborough.

"How do we help?" asked Selectman William Buckley. "Show up in August," when the improvements are unveiled, Rhodes responded.

Next year, he added, the Commission on Disability plans two steps further. First, it plans to add the enhancements for the visually impaired to another mile along the trail. Second, it will fund development of a smart phone application that will use global positioning system (GPS) data to provide handicapped people with information about the trail based on where they are along it. "How slick will that be?" Rhodes asked.


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