by Annie Cornett
Built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), several picnic tables located within Lava Beds National Park recently required restoration in order to replace the top, wood surface which had slowly deteriorated over the years. According to Don Bowen, Chief of Maintenance at Lava Beds National Park, it was typical for the park to replace the table tops every 15-20 years, but it became apparent during the most recent restoration that accessible tables would need to be provided.
"It broke my heart every day seeing Dad or Mom seated on the pavement watching their kids play 100 feet away on the beach." These words from John Short, Parks Director of Plainfield Charter Township, echoed the feelings of many in the community.
This quickly growing township on the northeast edge of Grand Rapids saw a need at Versluis Park and responded to the challenge. Tired of observing patrons who were unable to engage in beach and water activities because of varying abilities, they decided to do something about it.
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.
Families and friends often venture to outdoor recreation areas with the specific intent to picnic. Accessible picnic elements facilitate inclusion and socialization of park visitors. The provision of accessible picnic areas should be a consideration for facility operators. Providing accessible picnic elements such as tables can be an easy process especially since accessible picnic tables come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The U.S. Access Board is currently developing accessibility guidelines for outdoor recreation environments for incorporation into the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and the Architectural Barriers Act. The guidance set forth in this tech sheet is based on the U.S.