Outdoor Developed Areas

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What to Know Before You Go: The Big Questions to Ask Before Arriving at Your "Accessible" Recreation Destination

Every day millions of people participate in recreational activities. Recreation activities offer avenues for people with disabilities to improve their health, their relationships, and their enjoyment of life. In fact, recreational pursuits centered on physical activity and social engagement can help to prevent secondary health problems such as obesity and depression. Physical activity during recreation promotes weight-loss, strength, flexibility, motor skills and self-confidence. Socializing during recreation enables people to create new relational bonds and strengthen old ones, leaving the individual with an enhanced self-image and expanded social skills.

Accessible Wilderness Camping Made Possible – Scout’s Honor!

by Michelle Cook

When the location of travel is located "off the beaten path" access becomes challenging for people with disabilities. This is the task that Andrew Trontis chose to undertake: to build a barrier-free wilderness campsite developed in the rugged backwoods area of the Teertertown Nature Preserve, a Hunterdon County Park, in Lebanon Township, NJ.

Wire Mesh Railing Treatment Increases Visibility at Fanning Springs State Park

Designers planning boardwalks and viewing platforms are often challenged with creating accessible spaces and balancing the need for safety. Planners for the Florida State Parks decided to meet the challenge head on in Fanning Springs State Park. Planners used a wire mesh railing treatment to increase visibility while maintaining safety for park visitors.

Fanning Springs State Park is located on Florida's west coast on the famous Suwannee River, halfway between Tallahassee and Tampa. The park offers nature trails, swimming, boating and other various outdoor activities. Fanning Spring is one of Florida's 27 first magnitude springs. The wire mesh railing is installed on an 8 ½' x 11' boardwalk that extends from a swimming area to a gazebo overlooking the river.

New Lift on Trolley Gives Visitors Opportunity to See Parks and Gardens

Throughout the summer, trolley riders can take an interpretive tour as it meanders through the Sinnissippi Gardens and along the Rock River in Rockford, Illinois. The Rockford Park District, which operates Trolley Car 36 and the tour through the gardens, has been exploring options and has come up with a solution for making the trolley accessible.

The trolley excursion was first identified with an architectural barrier in the District's transition plan back in 1992. Many discussions amongst staff over the years have centered on creative solutions for making the trolley accessible. At one point, discussion focused on adding boarding ramps at the trolley station and at stops along the railway. However, railroad regulations restricted the placement of such boarding ramps in too close a proximity to the railroad tracks. So discussion turned to modifying the historic trolley itself.

Inclusive Park and Recreation Design: Versluis Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan

"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.

Barre Falls Dam Picnic Area: An Outdoor Developed Area "Making the Grade" in Hubbarston, MA

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.

Renovations "Make the Grade" at Lake Sylvia State Park

A paved path winding along the edge of the lake.

Located north of Montesano, Washington, Lake Sylvia State Park is a quiet, peaceful retreat surrounded by forest. The Park began as an old logging camp in a wooded area halfway between Olympia and the Pacific shore. The lake was formed by damming up Sylvia Creek for the purpose of log ponding and power production.

In 1936, the town of Montesano donated the land to the State parks Commission for conservation. Additional lands were added to the park by a trade in 1985.

What is an Accessible Trail?

Previous accessibility standards such as the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) address the built environment, "the bricks and mortar." These guidelines do not transfer well to the natural environment. The built environment is open to manipulation. For example, if there is a hill where someone wants to build the parking lot for a store, then a bulldozer is used to level the area. In contrast, the natural environment includes factors, such as the weather, that are out of human control. The natural environment is part of the experience people wish to enjoy on a trail.  

Campground Accessibility: Issues and Recommendations

Outdoor environments offer unique psychological, physiological and spiritual benefits to users. According to the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (Teasley, et al., 1998), 78 percent of people polled in the United States actively pursue outdoor activities, with camping being identified as one of the most popular.

Accessible Picnic Tables: Requirements and Recommendations

A young man in a wheelchair sits at square fixed pedestal picnic table with one bench removed.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.