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NEWS on accessible trails issues

Questions & answers on ADA trails accessibility

July 27, 2007Differences in accessibility guidelines may produce conflicts between proposed trails and recreation accessibility guidelines. Public comments are needed to clarify these issues.

The Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines and Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines accessibility will remain in place as legally mandated in the National Forest System, even after the Access Board's guidelines finalize. EXCEPT, the Forest Service (FS) will have to change any technical specifications in our FS guidelines that are a lower standard then the Access Board's where the Forest Service has taken exceptions that the Access Board doesn't.

June 20, 2007 • A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in the Federal Register. We have a chance to comment on accessible trail guidelines for federal lands. While this proposal does not include federally-funded projects or grants, a future version will ultimately affect all new trails, everywhere. We'll try to help you understand this process with all the details and commentary at

June 1, 2007Guidelines for accessible trails will be included in proposed rules for Federal agencies, and are based on the guidelines developed for the Access Board in 1999. This is another step in the process to establish clear requirements for building trails to accessible standards.

photo of accessible boardwalk
Boardwalk on the national forest at Jim Creek, Colorado

January 5, 2007 • The Forest Service Accessibility Guidebook on Outdoor Recreation and Trails will help users integrate accessibility into planning, design, construction, and maintenance of outdoor recreation facilities and trails while maintaining the natural setting. It provides detailed information about accessibility requirements in an easy-to-use format, with photos, illustrations, design tips, hotlinks, and sidebars.

May 22, 2006Federal Register publication of responses to comments received when proposed accessibility directives were published in 2005. The Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines and the Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines are both now final for use in the National Forest System.

November 23, 2005 • Access Board committee updates draft guidelines for sidewalks, street crossings, and related pedestrian facilities.

The Universal Trail Assessment Process: A Survey of State Trail Administrators includes good information on attitudes toward accessibility and actions to increase training for assessing trails.

September 23, 2005USFS continues work on trail Accessibility Guidelines, by Janet Zeller, USDA Forest Service. The Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines are slowly moving through the USDA directives clearance process. The FSTAG was published in the Federal Register and comments have been included in the current proposal. See an earlier article

April 18, 2005 USDA Forest Service proposed interim directives were published in the Federal Register inviting public comments until April 18, 2005. See Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines for details. See comparison of the proposed trail guidelines (FSTAG) with draft ADA guidelines. We will publish results of the public comment here when available. Also see Comments on proposed USFS Trail Accessibility Guidelines by the American Hiking Society.

March 15, 2005 • This summer, the Access Board plans to propose new guidelines for outdoor developed areas, including trails, beach access routes, and picnic and camping sites. The proposed guidelines will include detailed criteria for newly constructed and altered trails that will cover running slope or grade, cross slope, width, surface, passing space, edge protection, and signs.

Through Jan. 28, 2005 Public Input Can Affect Revision to ADA Design Standards

July 23, 2004 • The U.S. Access Board issued updated accessibility guidelines for new or altered facilities covered by Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act. None of this affects outdoor trails but Chapter 4 (Accessible Routes) includes new specifications that clarify access at recessed doors, ramps (edge protection), and curb ramps (top landings).

The original guidelines required detectable warnings, a distinctive tactile surfacing, on the surface of curb ramps and other areas to alert people with vision impairments of their approach to streets and drop-offs at boarding platforms.  The new guidelines do not include a requirement for detectable warnings at curb ramps or hazardous vehicular areas since the Board is revisiting this issue in a separate rulemaking on accessible public rights-of-way.

May 8, 2004 • The proposed Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines are still in process. We are waiting for a target date for the Federal Register publication tol be followed by the 60 day public comment period.

November 20, 2003 • In the absence of specific regulations to address the accessibility of campgrounds, picnic areas and trails, the USDA Forest Service is working on Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines. The process is underway to establish this directive through the public comment process. After that process is completed, the resulting guidelines will only apply within National Forest System boundaries.

September 22, 2003 • From Peggy Greenwell, U.S. Access Board: "After much delay, the Access Board is planning to move this rulemaking on accessibility guidelines for trails, picnic and camping facilities, and beaches forward. The Board will however, limit the rulemaking to the Federal government or those covered by the Architectural Barriers Act at this time. As you know, we have been delayed for several reasons including the finalization of the cost analysis. With the support of the Federal land management agencies, the Board believes that the rule should move forward more efficiently by limiting its coverage to the Federal government. This will also allow for the guidelines to be used on a Federal level with the opportunity to gain additional experience and information about making outdoor areas accessible for persons with disabilities.

"It is anticipated that rulemaking under the ADA will follow to address accessibility guidelines that will cover State and local governments and places of public accommodation. With work still to be done on the cost analysis, it is anticipated that this Architectural Barriers Act NPRM will be ready for publication sometime in 2004."

June 2003Trail groups meet with USDA Forest Service on proposed regulations

On October 8, 2002, the Access Board held a public meeting in Portland, Oregon on guidelines it is developing on accessible public rights-of-way, which includes sidewalks, street crossings, and intersections. It does not include trails outside of street rights-of-way, but would apply to trails within public street rights-of-way and to locations where trails cross public streets. For further information contact Kathy Roy Johnson of the Board at; (202) 272-0041 (voice) or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).

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