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Beach Access Route Meeting held July 23, 2008 by U.S. Access Board

Accessible routes to beaches are included in the Access Board's proposed guidelines for accessible trails, picnic and camping facilities, and beaches.

photo of wheelchair at edge of beach

Typical beach access situation

From the U.S. Access Board

On July 23, 2008 the U.S. Access Board held a meeting to gather additional information on beach access routes for its use in finalizing guidelines covering access to outdoor sites. In addition to beach access routes, these guidelines, which the Board proposed for public comment last year, provide specifications for trails, camp sites, and picnic areas at national parks and other Federal lands.

Participants included representatives from the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, the National Center on Accessibility, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as parks and recreation officials, architects, and product manufacturers who shared their experiences providing access routes at beaches.

The Board presented leading questions and issues it has identified from its review of comments on the proposed guidelines and visits to beaches where access routes have been provided. It sought information on the types of projects that should trigger the provision of beach access routes, the experiences agencies and officials have had providing access to beaches, and environmental impacts, route maintenance, and other considerations that could affect compliance. The Board also posed questions on technical specifications for beach access routes, including their width, frequency along a shore, distance, and connection to other beach sites.

Participants indicated that access improvements can be incorporated into beach nourishment and replenishment efforts. State and county officials from Delaware and Florida, an architect from California, and representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers shared their experiences providing access routes to ocean and lake beaches. Beach officials noted that route products, including mat systems, have been very popular with the public, not only among people with disabilities, but other beach goers as well, including those with baby strollers or wheeled totes.

A representative from an architectural firm described challenges posed by the terrain in providing access at various beaches in northern California. The Army Corps of Engineers presented information on projects where permanent routes and ramps have been installed to provide access to lakes. A mat system manufacturer described available route products and feedback received on a number of installations at various beaches along the eastern seaboard. Beach operators and product manufacturers recommended that routes be at least 60 inches wide based on their experiences.

Concerns were expressed about the amount of maintenance that may be required for routes at ocean beaches and the impact on budgets and staffing. It was pointed out that certain conditions will likely require routes to be temporarily moved or stored, including storm surges, extreme tides, beach maintenance and replenishment efforts. Attendees recommended that route systems stop short of the high water mark at ocean beaches, although this point is not fixed and fluctuates due to a number of environmental factors.

The Board also received information on environmental impacts, including threats to endangered plant and animal species. The Board previously heard concerns about harm beach routes may pose to endangered species, such as sea turtles, and protections implemented at certain beaches to protect nesting environments. A representative from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service briefed the Board on responsibilities Federal agencies have under the Endangered Species Act and noted that Service field offices are available to help local entities assess impacts on a case-by-case basis.

The Board will use the information gained in this meeting to finalize the guidelines for Federal outdoor sites. For further information on the meeting or this rulemaking, visit the Board’s website at or contact Bill Botten at, (202) 272-0014 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).


On Wednesday, June 20, 2008, the U.S. Access Board issued proposed accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas, including beach access routes, under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) affecting Federal beaches and facilities. Following is a summary of these guidelines.

Beach access routes are intended to provide access for persons with disabilities to the high water mark of the water. The proposed guidelines include technical criteria for new and existing beaches. Temporary access routes are also permitted in this environment. Where a beach is newly constructed (sand imported), a minimum of one accessible beach route every half mile of linear feet of new beach is required. For existing beaches where a pedestrian route is provided, a minimum of one accessible beach routes every half mile of linear feet of beach is required. The beach access route is required to extend to the mean high tide level, mean river bed, or the normal recreation water level. A series of exceptions also limit the application of the beach access route requirement.


Surface Firm and stable (may be temporary on existing beaches)
Clear tread width 36 inches minimum
Openings ½ inch maximum
Obstacles 1 inch maximum
Passing space Every 200 feet if less than 60 inches tread width
Cross slope 1:33 maximum
Resting intervals Level areas required after steep (where slope is 1:12 or greater) sections
Turning space Level area required at the end of the beach access route – 60” x 60” or T-shaped space
Edge protection Must be provided if drop off from route is 6 inches or higher – 2” minimum
Running slope 1:20 (any distance)
1:12 maximum (resting intervals every 50 ft.)
1:10 maximum (resting intervals every 30 ft.)

For further information or to sign up to attend, and/or make a short presentation at the meeting, contact Bill Botten at, (202) 272-0014 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).

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