Florida's training for accessible trails helps local sponsors
State trails program sponsors a series of workshops to help build trails that are more accessible.
By Alexandra H. Weiss
As we all know, accessibility for trail users is important. Interpreting the various laws related to this issue can be confusing. Putting the information to practical use can be daunting. The education opportunity now offered is designed to assist agencies in addressing these issues, thus making Florida's recreational trails safer and more accessible to all users.
The Universal Trail Assessment Process training introduces participants to recreational trail accessibility issues. Participants learn how to map trails as to cross-slope, grade, obstacles, and trail width, as well as how to use all this new-found information. UTAP is not only a great accessibility assessment tool, but a management tool. In addition, participants learn how trail sustainability and accessibility are interrelated.
The Office of Greenways & Trails, through the Recreational Trails Program, pays for the training. All RTP project sponsors are invited to participate. The administrative funds cover the cost of both the UTAP tool kits and the TrailWare computer programs which are sent home with each project sponsor at the completion of the UTAP Coordinator Training.
Florida offers two types of training: the full UTAP coordinator workshop with TrailWare training; and the one day "Understanding Accessibility and Building Better Trails" workshop.
RTP Grant Implementation (GIMP) Workshop participants receive the one day training. The project liaisons are introduced to trail sustainability and accessibility in an informative indoor and outdoor setting. The GIMP workshop provides participants with an introduction to the topic and discussion of why trail sustainability and accessibility can coexist as well as the importance of providing objective trail information to recreational trail users and trail managers.
The two and one-half day UTAP training is the more intense training. In addition to classroom work, the program involves on-the-ground, on-the-trail experiences. On the third day, participants spend a half day learning and using the TrailWare software program associated with UTAP.
Florida currently conducts two UTAP Coordinator sessions per year. In this way, both the new project sponsors as well as past sponsors participate. Eventually, they'll get caught up and just do one per year for the new sponsors.
Florida now requires that project sponsors assess their RTP projects and submit the information to the Office of Greenways & Trails. The idea is that whoever participates in the training returns to their sites and uses the information. UTAP is designed to assist agencies in addressing trails accessibility issues and thereby improving the recreational trails experience for all visitors.
Visit www.floridagreenwaysandtrails.com for more on Florida trails. The Trail Explorer website is at www.trailexplorer.com. For more information on the Accessible Trails workshops from American Trails, please visit www.AmericanTrails.org.
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Updated June 30, 2008