Outdoor Developed Areas

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NCA Seeks Land Managers with Trails to Participate in National Study

In a collaborative effort between the U.S. Access Board, the National Center on Accessibility (NCA), and Oklahoma State University, NCA is seeking to provide qualified professionals, resource specialists and operations staff of parks in the United States with descriptive and or/comparative information about the status of construction practices of pedestrian/hiker, natural surface trails in the United States. This study will provide better insight into the products used on trail surfaces, the firmness and stability of those surfaces, and the frequency of maintenance/repair activities performed.

Awaiting Outdoor Accessibility Standards: Trail Building at Shaver’s Creek

by Donica Conseen and Nikki Montembeault


In July 2007, the United States Access Board issued the Notice of Proposed Rule Making Guidelines for Federal Outdoor Developed Areas, which in 2009 then became the Draft Final Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas and were made available for comment until December 2009. While these guidelines have not yet reached their final status they are recommended as best practices, and are designed to encourage entities to address accessibility concerns within the realm of the outdoors. The specific outdoor areas that are covered by the Draft Final Outdoor guidelines include: camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, outdoor recreation access routes, trailheads, trails, and beach access routes. As it pertains to this article, the guidelines provided the parameters for the design and construction of the Shaver’s Creek trail. 



Students on trail.

School students utilizing the new accessible trail at Shaver's Creek.

When Brian Sedgwick, Building Services Coordinator for Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, first heard the National Center on Accessibility (NCA) was offering training last spring in San Antonio, he was thrilled at the opportunity to attend.   Sedgwick’s anticipation to attend an NCA training course was sparked by an upcoming project to design a new accessible trail at Shaver’s Creek. The outdoor center at The Pennsylvania State University provides a variety of educational and recreational opportunities ranging from tours, trails, discovery rooms, a boardwalk and gardens. The center conducts programing for children and the community within the Stone Valley Recreation Area in central Pennsylvania.  Going into the training Sedgwick was not only hoping to gain insight on how to best approach the project, but also how he could create awareness of the principles of universal design with the project team and among staff.  While attending the training Sedgwick learned that there are many factors which affect the accessibility of a trail. Physical elements such as the firmness and stability of the trail surface were discussed, in addition to programmatic elements such as providing tactile elements along the trail. Tactile elements not only enhance the experience offered but provide a more accessible experience to those visitors with low vision or who are blind, visitors with cognitive impairments, and in the spirit of universal design, children at various levels of development.  When Sedgwick returned home, he started examining the Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center from an accessibility standpoint in addition to Shaver’s Creek Trail.  Recognizing the importance of the principles of universal design, he began to educate both his co-workers and the students he teaches at Penn State on the principles in hopes that they would be put into practice.

Lava Beds Maintenance Crew Re-Engineers CCC Picnic Tables

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.

Access Board Issues Draft Final Rule for Outdoor Developed Areas

by Jennifer Skulski

Accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas managed by federal agencies are one step closer to becoming standards. On October 19, 2009, the U.S. Access Board released the Draft Final Accessibility Guidelines for Federal Outdoor Areas covered by the Architectural Barriers Act.

This draft marks another milestone of more than 15 years of work by the Access Board and vested stakeholders including regulatory negotiation in 1999. The issuance of this draft document brings the adoption of accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas closer to finalization and implementation under the Architectural Barriers Act. It further defines accessibility considerations for outdoor recreation environments and provides needed guidance to land managers on minimum standards to design for the inclusion of people with disabilities in these outdoor environments.

NCA Seeks Land Managers with Trails to Participate in National Study

The National Center on Accessibility is seeking land managers with pedestrian trails in public parks, forests, lands, and other recreation areas to participate in a national study on the accessibility of various types of soil stabilization products. This is the second of a four phase national trails study conducted by the National Center on Accessibility at Indiana University with support from the U.S. Access Board.

Innovation and Commitment Improve the Quality of Michigan DNR Accessible Programs and Facilities

by Anne Cornett


With a rich history dating back to the 1800’s, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has proven to be one of this century’s most dedicated advocates of accessible recreation. With the advent of ADA regulations in 1990 and the implementation of the Access to Recreation initiative in 2006 sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Michigan DNR has embraced the challenge of providing accessible opportunities to all individuals interested in participation. From accessible hunting blinds and trails, to an innovative water transfer system the Michigan DNR truly goes above and beyond to provide the best experience possible.

Outdoor Programs: Using Service Learning as an Educational Tool

by Ricardo Moraes, MS
  • A staff from the Department of Natural Resources explains facts about Eagles while six special education students have been quietly listening for the last 30 minutes.
  • Another group of students with low academic performance designs a trail accessible for people of all abilities.
  • Students that present behavior problems work as a team to build a garden at a local nursing home as their teacher stands amused.

The above illustrations are real examples of successfully action-oriented projects used to support students with special needs to grow and achieve their potential.

Challenge Programs: A Universal Approach to Including People of All Abilities

by Gary Eavey, Adventure Based Counselor

Challenge Programs enable people to take physical and emotional risks with the support and encouragement of their peers. The use of challenge courses can promote growth and independence. Participants feel a sense of achievement in completing an activity they perceived beyond their realm of success. For people with disabilities, the benefits of a challenge course experience can be a unique journey of self-awareness and personal growth-testing new abilities.

Preferred Natural Environments and People with Disabilities

by Terry J. Brown, Rachel Kaplan & Gail Quaderer

Challenge Course Operations for Including People with Disabilities

 by Don Rogers, Ph.D., CTRS

 Operating a challenge course program has features similar to any other recreation service delivery operation. There are administrators who must plan and make decisions, marketing and public relations efforts, supervisors directing front-lines operations, and program delivery staff who have direct contact with participants.