I am writing to provide comment on the proposed rules for ‘Outdoor Developed Areas’. I have been practicing landscape architecture since 1998, attaining licensure in 2001. Following my passion I recently launched a business specializing in design for trail type recreation, to which these guidelines will be directly applicable. I commend the Board for their efforts in promoting accessibility guidelines for all developed areas. I feel strongly that open spaces should be accessible to all people and I support all practical measures to make it so. I appreciate the opportunity to provide comments and I have the following suggestions.
I understand that the Architectural Barriers Act applies to federally financed projects and that “…the Access Board has decided to limit this proposed rule to outdoor developed areas designed, constructed, or altered by Federal agencies subject to the Architectural Barriers Act” (Federal Register, Vol. 72, No. 118, p. 34075). I suggest the Board further define the applicability of these guidelines to explicitly state that non-federal agencies implementing such projects with federal funding are exempt.
The Federal Register, in which these guidelines were published, states “At a future date, when an assessment of the impacts on State and Local governments and private entities can be prepared, the Access Board will conduct a separate rulemaking for outdoor developed areas subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act” (Vol. 72, No. 118, p. 34075). Consistent with the mission of my business I believe it is important ensure that any future accessibility guidelines applicable to state and local government agencies and private entities are based on the best available knowledge. I suggest the Board conduct a future rule making for the ADA based on the practical knowledge and experience gained by the Federal agencies to which the ABA guidelines will be applied.
I understand the proposed guidelines “…are to be applied during the design, construction, addition to, and alterations of outdoor developed areas…” (Outdoor Developed Areas Guidelines, p. 1). The definition of ‘wilderness’, as provided by the Wilderness Act, is “…an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” If applicable to wilderness areas, the guidelines will require construction of infrastructure that is in direct contradiction to the intention of ‘wilderness’. Further, the definition of ‘developed’, as provided by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “having a relatively high level of industrialization and standard of living”. The guidelines, as written, will be applicable to some areas that by definition or intention are not ‘developed’ areas. In the interest of balancing protection of natural and cultural resources with public access I strongly suggest the Board define ‘Outdoor Developed Area’ to explicitly state where it is most appropriate to implement these guidelines. In addition, I suggest the Board further define ‘designated trailhead’ to state “…the point of access as designated by the land owner…” to avoid de facto trailheads and trails from being subject to the guidelines.
The presentations by United States Forest Service (USFS) representatives during the Board’s public hearings (Westminster, CO 07/24/07 and Washington, DC 09/06/07) provide rational and defined measures that will work toward balancing the protection of natural and cultural resources with the provision of public access to them. Because the USFS has spent several years developing and implementing accessibility guidelines for trails and outdoor recreation areas, based on the Regulatory Negotiation Committee’s Final Report, I fully support the application of their practical knowledge to the refinement of the guidelines proposed by the Board.
Once again, I commend the Board for their strong and invaluable efforts in working toward universal access to all developed areas. I look forward to commenting on the Board’s future rulemaking for outdoor developed areas subject to the ADA.
Jason Himick, RLA