Bedford Recreation Officials Acknowledge Accessibility Issues

As the Bedford Recreation Commission embarks on a 10-year recreation plan, members are acknowledging deficiencies in access.

“I feel like we let a whole community down. We need to address it,” said longtime member Ron Richter after hearing testimony from a resident who described her family’s frustrations with accessing facilities and programs.

“At every location, we’ve been met with either unreliable access or no access,” Leah Devereaux told the commission Wednesday, responding to its invitation for recommendations on the topic. “We stopped even trying to sign them up for these programs. It is very disappointing and we hope to see significant changes.”

Devereaux’s husband, Rich Razumny, uses a wheelchair. They have two children, ages four and six.

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“We are working toward a 10-year plan and looking at all issues, especially what accessibility issues there are and what suggestions people have,” said Chair Robin Steele.

There are no accessible paths or handicapped parking near the tennis courts at the high school, Devereaux said. At the adjacent Wilson Field, there are no curb cuts and only a grassy hill for spectators. Even the elevator at a local church hosting a recreation gymnastics program was broken.

She was dissatisfied with some of the planned upgrades to the playground on Mudge Way. Only a quarter to a third of the area will have accessible surfacing, she said, and the picnic tables are also inaccessible. “How was the decision made on what was done at the playground?” she wondered. “It will be a little bit accessible, a tiny slice. I know that the surface is going to be covered with mulch in a week and I am going to bring a broom with me.”

Recreation Director Josh Smith explained that the playground improvements, which are scheduled for early November, are a “midlife rehabilitation,” focusing on refurbishing and replacing structures. But the issues have “opened up everyone’s eyes. We need to do a lot more in town.”

The family also uses school playgrounds, but they are off-limits during school hours, Devereaux continued. “And the school playgrounds also have big issues. The Davis School playground has accessible surfacing but it is covered with mulch, and “no one’s maintaining these playgrounds.”

Devereaux was a vocal advocate for extending the Minuteman Bikeway along the Reformatory Branch Trail, which was defeated by town meeting votes in 2022. “When the bike path failed to be paved, I felt so defeated. I hope people can come together for this, every one of the schools and parks.”

“I don’t think anything Leah has said is wrong,” Steele said. “We should work with the Disability Commission to push this forward.” She said ideally everything should be accessible.

Steele asked if the commission should identify sites for additional town playgrounds. Devereaux pointed out that the current playground in the center campus has accessible bathrooms. “I understand there are budgetary constraints,” she said. “Focusing efforts on a playground that already exists makes more sense, but people want another playground.”

Steele also said she would welcome new programming open to all that would accelerate the commission’s commitment to accessibility. Richter concurred. “We should identify opportunities to make more accessibility without a lot of investment, then prioritize the rest of the inventory. I don’t think we have to wait for a project. We should define what needs to be done.”

Also testifying during the meeting was resident Jenn Berman, who noted the positive impact on developmentally disabled children of therapeutic recreation programs in neighboring towns. Smith said the commission recently approved a new position of therapeutic recreation therapist and he is interviewing candidates.

Steele said residents with ideas or concerns should share them with Smith or commission members.

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