Applying the Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines
Providing accessibility in developed areas requires that people be able to get to features intended for public use. Outdoor recreation access routes are pedestrian routes that allow almost everybody to move around in a recreation area independently. Section 1.2 of FSORAG defines an outdoor recreation access route as "a continuous, unobstructed path designed for pedestrian use that connects constructed features in a campground, camping unit, picnic area, trailhead, or other recreation site where modifications are provided for visitor convenience and comfort." Figure 36 shows an outdoor recreation access route connecting a parking lot and scenic overlook. Section 2.0 of FSORAG contains the technical requirements for outdoor recreation access routes.
Outdoor recreation access routes are not required when camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, or outdoor constructed features are provided on trails. The routes connecting those facilities are to comply with the technical requirements for trails.
Outdoor recreation access routes ensure that visitors can move independently from their car or their camping or picnic spot to the other constructed features provided at a recreation area. When individual elements or constructed features are altered or replaced at existing recreation areas, Forest Service policy requires that they be accessible. However, if the ground under the element isn't changed as part of that renovation or replacement project, this work doesn't trigger the requirement for outdoor recreation access routes.
Design outdoor recreation access routes to meet technical requirements for running and cross slopes, resting intervals, surface, clear tread width, passing spaces, tread obstacles, protruding objects, and openings. If a condition for an exception prevents full compliance with a specific technical requirement on a portion of an outdoor recreation access route that is part of an alteration project, that portion of the outdoor recreation access route only has to comply with the specific technical requirements to the extent practicable. This deviation is not allowed for new construction; outdoor recreation access routes are required. When planning for a new outdoor recreation area or viewing area, the natural terrain and the general accessibility of the natural environment should be part of the site selection criteria.
Because individuals usually arrive at recreational vehicle (RV) dump stations by vehicle, there is an exception to the outdoor recreation access route connection requirement. A connecting outdoor recreation access route isn't required if an accessible vehicle pullup space is provided at the RV dump station.
The outdoor recreation access route may be provided within a roadway if the roadway is the only general circulation path for pedestrians at a recreation site. The outdoor recreation access route in the roadway isn't required to comply with outdoor recreation access route technical requirements for grade, resting, or passing intervals, but clear passage of 32 inches is required around or through speed restriction devices, gates, or other barriers.
The surface of an outdoor recreation access route and the surface surrounding constructed features must be firm and stable. No exceptions are allowed. Slip resistance is not required because leaves and needles, dirt, ice, snow, and other surface debris and weather conditions are components of the natural environment and would be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.
- A firm surface resists deformation by indentations.
- A stable surface is not permanently affected by expected weather conditions and can sustain normal wear and tear from the expected use(s) of the area between planned maintenance cycles.
Firm and stable surfaces prevent assistive devices from sinking into the surface. Surfaces that are not firm and stable make travel difficult for a person using crutches, a cane, a wheelchair, or other assistive device. In the accessibility guidelines, the standard assistive device is the wheelchair because its dimensions, multiple moving surface contact points and four wheels often are difficult to accommodate. If a person using a wheelchair can use an area, most other people also can use that area.
During the planning process, potential surface materials should be evaluated for noticeable distortion or compression during the season(s) of managed use and for stability under normal weather conditions and expected uses. If the surface won't remain firm and stable, another surface material should be used.
If the natural soils won't provide a firm and stable surface, soil stabilizer or artificial surfacing will be needed. The Forest Service technology and development report, "Soil Stabilizers on Universally Accessible Trails," contains information about the effectiveness of soil stabilizers. It is available at http://www.fs.fed.us/eng/pubs/pdf/00231202.pdf or http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/fspubs/00231202/.
Use a rule of thumb to estimate firmness and stability.
What sort of surface is firm and stable? If the answer to both of the following questions is yes, the surface is probably firm and stable.
Could a person ride a narrow-tired bicycle across the surface easily without making imprints? (Bicycle tires are similar to the large rear wheels of a wheelchair.)
Could a folding stroller with small, narrow plastic wheels containing a 3-year-old be pushed easily across the surface without making imprints? (A stroller's wheels are similar to the front wheels of a wheelchair.)
While this method for determining firmness and stability isn't scientifically accurate, it has proven to be effective.
Provide appropriate walking surfaces for the setting.
A firm and stable surface does not always mean concrete and asphalt. The provision states that surface material should be appropriate to the setting and level of development. Some natural soils can be compacted so they are firm and stable. Other soils can be treated with stabilizers without drastically changing their appearance. Many surface materials that appear natural and that meet the firm and stable requirements also are available on the market. Investigate these options and use surface materials that are consistent with the site's level of development and that require as little maintenance as possible.
Use better surface materials.
Generally, the following materials are more likely to provide firm and stable surfaces:
- Crushed rock (rather than uncrushed gravel)
- Rock with broken faces (rather than rounded rocks)
- A rock mixture containing a full spectrum of sieve
sizes, including fine material (rather than a single size)
- Hard rock (rather than soft rock that breaks down
- Rock that passes through a ½-inch (13-millimeter)
screen (rather than larger rocks)
- Rock material that has been compacted into 3- to
4-inch (75- to 100-millimeter) -thick layers (rather
than thicker layers)
- Material that is moist (not soggy) before it is compacted
(rather than material that is compacted when it
- Material that is compacted with a vibrating plate compactor, roller, or by hand tamping (rather than material that is laid loose and compacted by use)
Running slope is the lengthwise slope of an outdoor recreation access route, parallel to the direction of travel. Outdoor recreation access route sections of any length may have a running slope ratio of up to 1:20, a 5-percent grade (figure 37). Steeper terrain may make this difficult to achieve. Many visitors can negotiate steeper slopes for short distances, so short segments of outdoor recreation access routes may be steeper, as shown in table 2, but the slope of an outdoor recreation access route may never exceed 1:10, a 10-percent grade. In this guidebook, the terms running slope and grade often are used interchangeably.
Cross slopes—the side-to-side slope of an outdoor recreation access route—must not exceed 1:33 (3 percent), as shown by figure 37. However, if the surface of the outdoor recreation access route is paved or built with boards, the cross slope must not be steeper than 1:48 (2 percent).
The cross slope requirement depends on what material is used.
Those who use a mobility device know that as cross slope increases, travel becomes more difficult. This is because working against the sideways pull of the cross slope can double the effort needed to make forward progress. However, in an outdoor environment, the cross slope has to be steep enough that water won't accumulate on the travel surface. While slope and drainage can be precisely controlled on surfaces that are paved (asphalt, concrete, paving blocks, and so forth) or built with boards (wood planks, heavy timber, concrete, fiberglass, or other manufactured material), it's more difficult to ensure drainage on natural or gravel surfaces. When water accumulates on natural or gravel surfaces, they often become muddy and impassible. That's why the cross slope is allowed to be steeper on natural or gravel surfaces than on surfaces that are paved or built with boards.
Resting intervals are relatively level areas that provide an opportunity for people to catch their breath before continuing along the outdoor recreation access route. These intervals are required between each outdoor recreation access route segment any time the running slope ratio exceeds 1:20 (5 percent) as shown on table 2. A resting interval must be at least 60 inches (1,525 millimeters) long and at least as wide as the widest segment of the outdoor recreation access route leading into it, if the resting interval is within the outdoor recreation access route. If the resting interval is beside the outdoor recreation access route, it has to be at least 60 inches (1,525 millimeters) long and at least 36 inches (915 millimeters) wide. Depending on the design and location, the intersection of two outdoor recreation access routes may act as a resting interval.
|Runnign Slopes on ORARs||Maximum Length of Segment Between Resting Intervals|
|Steeper than||But not Steeper than|
|1:20 (5 percent)||1:12 (8.33 percent)||50 feet (15 meters)|
|1:12 (8.33 percent)||1:10 (10 percent)||30 feet (9 meters)|
Slope and grade terminology.
Slopes are often described as a ratio of vertical distance to horizontal distance, or rise to run. For instance, a slope ratio of 1:20 means that for every 1 foot of vertical rise, there are 20 feet of horizontal distance; for every meter of vertical rise, there are 20 meters of horizontal distance (figure 38). When the slope ratio is stated as a percent, it is referred to as the grade. A 1:20 slope stated as a percent would be a 5 percent grade.
The slopes of a resting interval may not exceed a ratio of 1:33 (3 percent) in any direction (figure 39). However, if the surface is paved or is built with boards, the slope can't be steeper than 1:48 (2 percent) in any direction.
Grade requirements for an outdoor recreation access route may be more difficult to meet when altering an existing site than during new construction. Accessibility was seldom considered when older recreation sites were designed. Many campgrounds and picnic areas were located in spectacularly scenic settings, but on steep terrain. Complying with the grade requirement in these areas may be difficult without a fundamental change to the recreation environment. A deviation is allowed for alteration projects where a condition for an exception exists.
In alterations only, if a condition for an exception prevents full compliance with a specific technical requirement on a portion of an outdoor recreation access route at camping and picnic facilities and at trailheads, that portion of the outdoor recreation access route is required to comply with the specific technical requirement only to the extent practicable.
This deviation from the technical requirement is not allowed to be used for new construction at camping and picnic facilities or at trailheads. When planning for a new outdoor recreation area, the natural terrain and the general accessibility of the natural environment should be part of the site selection criteria because compliance with outdoor recreation access route requirements is required for new construction.