Top agency winners in New Hampshire, South Dakota and in the West help agency maintain status as leader in accessibility of outdoor recreation facilities
The U.S. Forest Service recently announced national accessibility accomplishment awards highlighting three national winners in New Hampshire,South Dakota and in the West to recognize extraordinary efforts to integrate accessibility into national forests and grasslands facilities to better serve all visitors.
The agency’s accessibility work improves access to outdoor recreation for all, including for the 54 million people in the U.S. who have disabilities, the largest minority in the country. The Forest Service has more than 20,000 accessible recreation units, such as campsites and picnic areas, and more than 7,000 accessible recreation buildings.
In surveys, roughly 7 percent of the 172 million national forest and grassland visitors self-disclosed that at least one person in their group had a disability.
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell recognized three national winners and 18 national honorees in three categories:
- Unit Accessibility Accomplishments: The employees of the White Mountain National Forest, where 92 percent of the recreational sites are accessible, are recognized for providing support to the overall goals of inclusion and integrating accessibility into the natural environment without altering the setting or experience. Whether at the Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, Jigger Johnson Campground, Pinkham Notch Visitors Center or along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, White Mountain forest employees work to make every recreation site and facility accessible while maintaining New Hampshire’s natural setting.
- Group/Team Accessibility Advancement Actions: The Intermountain Region Design Team is key to ensuring new and reconstructed facilities on the 12 national forests and grasslands in the five-state region – Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming – meet or exceed agency and federal standards for accessibility. The team integrates accessibility from the start of the design process. They provide accessibility training and information to the region and historic structure guidance nationally. In one year alone, the team was responsible for accessible design projects on 12 large recreation sites, three facilities and a visitor center.
- Individual Accessibility Commitment and Leadership: For any information related to accessibility, Darci Collins is described as the “go-to” person on the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. Her knowledge of accessibility and her ability to find practical ways to meet the guidelines are respected by Forest, contract, and Regional Office employees as well as by permit holders, partners and cooperators. Collins’ dedication and energy have resulted in accessibility being integrated into the recreation sites, facilities, and all other areas of the forest.
In addition, 18 Unit, Group, and Individual National Honorees were named.
Since the enactment of the agency’s 1993 universal design policy, the highest accessibility standard of any federal agency, all new or altered Forest Service outdoor recreation facilities are required to comply with the provisions of the policy.
“The Forest Service is the only entity with legally mandated accessibility guidelines for developed outdoor recreation sites and so the agency exceeds the minimum requirements of the federal accessibility guidelines,” said Janet Zeller, the agency’s manager. “When accessibility is integrated into a project from the beginning there is little or no additional expense.”
The Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines and the Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines are available free online. Learn more about the agency’s National Accessibility Program.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.