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Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails

Applying the Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines (Continued)

Getting to the Water—Beach Access Routes

A beach access route is a continuous unobstructed path intended for pedestrian use that crosses the surface of the beach. Because beach access routes and ORARs perform similar functions, their provisions are closely related. Section 3 of the FSORAG covers beach access routes.

Beaches are grouped into three general types:

Beach access routes allow pedestrians to get to the water so they can play, swim, or participate in other shoreline activities. Areas where entry into the water may be possible, but no specific path or route is provided, aren't beach access routes.

A beach access route is a pathway over the surface of the beach itself that leads to the water. The route leading to the edge of the beach surface in a recreation area is an ORAR.

The FSORAG has different requirements for new and existing beaches. A new beach is a site where a beach is created artificially by importing sand or other beach material. At least one beach access route must be provided for each linear half mile (800 meters) of new beach. The beach access route must be permanent and extend to the high tide level for coastal beaches, the mean high water level for river beaches, or the normal recreation water level for lakes, ponds, and reservoirs (figures 39, 40, and 41).

Illustration of several people enjoying a seaside beach. One person is jogging along a beach access route, one is traveling in a wheelchair, one is sitting on a blanket, and three people are playing in the water. Text shows the location of the high tide level.
Figure 39—The high tide level on a costal beach.
Illustration of a person using a wheelchair holding a fishing pole and scrounging in a tackle box, while another person wearing waders fishes in the river. Text shows the location of the mean high water level.
Figure 40—The mean high water level on a river.
Illustration of several people at a lake. One person is walking on a beach access route. Another person using a wheelchair is holding a picnic cooler, watching a boy standing in the lake play fetch-the-stick with a dog. Text shows the normal recreation water level.
Figure 41—The normal recreation water level on a lake.

Illustration of a woman sitting on a rock at the end of a river beach access route that winds past a retaining wall from a parking lot where a pickup is parked. Text shows the location of the mean high water line, mid-season water line, and low water line.
Figure 42—This beach access route is
partly inundated every year.

Beach access routes must be provided to existing beaches when a pedestrian route is constructed from a recreation site to or along the edge of an existing beach, or when an existing beach access route is altered. It must extend to the high tide level, mean high water level, or normal recreation water level as described for new beaches, so that visitors can participate in water-related recreation activities (figure 43).

Photo of a woman using a wheelchair to travel along a lakefront beach.
Figure 43—Everybody ought to be
able to get to the beach.

Several exceptions are permitted for routes on existing beaches. Designers and managers can chose to use a temporary beach access route on existing beaches for administrative, environmental, or operational reasons. Factors that might influence a decision in favor of a temporary beach access route include the restrictive permits that may be required in coastal and shoreline areas, or excessive wave action that can cause erosion, quickly turning a permanent beach access route into a hazard. Vehicular access or access provided by an assistive device isn't an acceptable temporary beach access route.

Routes created solely for shoreline maintenance don't have to meet beach access route requirements; neither do undeveloped public easements, nor access trails when another beach access route meets the requirements and accesses the same beach within ½ mile (800 meters).

Beach access route requirements are not triggered when an existing beach is being replenished with new material to restore eroded areas, so long as no other improvements are made. Beach access routes are not required when the pedestrian route, boardwalk, or pathway along the edge of an existing beach is elevated 18 inches (455 millimeters) or higher above the beach surface.

Slopes and Resting Intervals for Beach Access Routes

Running slopes—the slope parallel to the direction of travel—on a beach access route may be up to 1:20 (5 percent) for any distance, up to 1:12 (8.33 percent) for 50 feet (15 meters), and up to 1:10 (10 percent) for 30 feet (9 meters). To ensure that the beach access route is not designed as a series of steep segments, no more than 15 percent of the total length may exceed a slope of 1:12 (8.33 percent). As with ORARs, for alteration projects only, the requirement for running slope doesn't have to be met if there is a condition for departure. Cross slopes—the side-to-side slope—may not exceed 1:33 (3 percent). The basic slope requirements are the same as for ORARs (see figure 29).

Resting intervals identical to those required for an ORAR are required whenever the running slope of a beach access route exceeds 1:20 (5 percent). See ORAR Slopes and Resting Intervals for resting area requirements.

Maneuvering Space for Beach Access Routes

Space must be provided at the high tide level, mean high water level, normal recreation water level, or at the end of a beach access route so someone using an assistive device can move around safely. This maneuvering space is different from a passing area, because maneuvering space can't overlap the beach access route. Other requirements, such as running slope and cross slope, are the same as described for an ORAR passing space.

Surface and Clear Tread Width on Beach Access Routes

A beach access route must have a firm and stable surface and have 36-inch (915-millimeter) minimum clear tread width. If a condition for departure exists, such as when a beach access route passes between a large boulder and a stream, the clear tread width may be reduced to not less than 32 inches (815 millimeters) for no longer than 24 inches (610 millimeters).

Passing Spaces on Beach Access Routes

Where the clear tread width of a beach access route is less than 60 inches (1,525 millimeters), passing spaces are required at least every 200 feet (60 meters). No exception is permitted. Passing spaces are at least 60 inches (1,525 millimeters) wide by 60 inches (1,525 millimeters) long (see figure 33). Another option allows a T-intersection of two beach access routes or other walking surfaces to be a passing space, provided that the arms and stem of the T-shaped space extend at least 48 inches (1,220 millimeters) beyond the intersection (see figure 34). Either configuration would provide enough room for someone to move to the side and let an oncoming person pass. The cross slope of a passing space shouldn't exceed 3 percent.

Changes in Level on Beach Access Route

Obstacles along a beach access route must not be more than 1 inch (25 millimeters) high. There is no exception.

Protruding Objects on Beach Access Routes

Protruding objects are things such as leaning trees, rock ledges, and driftwood that extend into the clear width of a beach access route. At least 80 inches (2,030 millimeters) of clear headroom must be provided on beach access routes, the same requirement as ABAAS section 307. Where the vertical clearance of a beach access route is less than 80 inches (2,030 millimeters) because of a condition for departure, a barrier must be provided to warn people who are blind or visually impaired (see figure 35).

Openings in Beach Access Routes

Openings are gaps in the surface of a beach access route. Gaps include spaces between the planks on a boardwalk and drainage holes in temporary or permanent surfaces. Openings that are big enough for wheels, cane or crutch tips, or shoe heels to drop through or get stuck in are hazards that shouldn't exist in pedestrian routes. Openings up to ½ inch (13 millimeters) wide are permitted. Elongated openings must be placed so that the long dimension runs perpendicular or diagonal to the primary direction of travel (see figure 37). An exception allows openings that are less than ¼ inch (6.4 millimeters) wide to be placed parallel to the dominant direction of travel.

Edge Protection for Beach Access Routes

Edge protection is required along beach access routes where the dropoff from the route to the beach is 6 inches (150 millimeters) or higher. Edge protection may be a curb, wall, railing, or other projecting surface that defines the edge of a pedestrian route and helps to keep people from falling off. Edge protection must be at least 2 inches (50 millimeters) high (figure 44). If the dropoff from the route to the beach is more than 1 inch (25 millimeters) but less than 6 inches (150 millimeters), edge protection isn't required, but the vertical edge of the dropoff must be beveled with a slope of 1:2.

Illustration of a beach access route connecting an interpretive area and an ocean beach. Dimensions repeat edge protection and dropoff slope requirements stated in the paragraph above.
Figure 44—The requirements for edge
protection on a beach access route.

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