CAROL HUNTER: Hello. My name is Carol Hunter and I am director of Partners for Access to the Woods or PAW. I had the privilege to be a member of the Reg Neg Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to speak at this hearing.
Dr. Robert Knecht of the Colorado School of Mines is assisting me and will also be available for questions after my presentation.
My comments are based on the concern that the proposed document for this rule does not provide a strong enough case for a federal agency to begin their design process for their trail or campground with the premise that it will be accessible.
Federal employees are required to meet many mandates for each project they design and construct.
Given the opportunity to opt out of a review excuse me, to opt out of a review process for a project with what seems complicated requirements would be an easy decision.
The present document’s strength is in providing the federal employee easy directions on how to exempt out of making the trail or campground accessible.
I ask that the proposed law strengthen its language in order to ensure that the federal agency must begin with the premise that the trail or campground be made accessible and meet the design guidelines found in the proposed law.
Only after documented attempts showing several designs can the exemption from the proposed rule be taken.
On the screen are quotes from the Reg Neg Committee and our belief on what the accessibility guidelines should include. For time, I won’t read them.
Another part of my concern is the need for the law to have educational tools for the person in the field who must design and build the accessible trail. The current document makes it too easy for a federal employee to opt out of building an accessible trail instead of taking the needed time to understand the proposed guidelines.
When the original report for the Recreation Access Advisory Committee came out in July 1994, it was difficult to understand what the guidelines meant until they could be seen on the ground.
Partners for Access to the Woods PAW went to the Colorado School of Mines, a world class engineering institution, and asked for help in taking these 1994 guidelines and laying them on the ground. The result of this project was the Gary E. Cargill research trail, which was built at Colorado Easter Seals camp in empire, Colorado.
Gary Cargill was a United States Forest Service regional forester from Region II of the Rocky Mountain region. Gary was a man who believed that public lands were for all to enjoy, including persons with disabilities. He was a man ahead of his time.
This research trail used the equation of grade, cross slope and surface material to equal the level of difficulty for that trail. The trail had 36 sections, each 100 feet long, and with a different equation.
The Easter Seals campers and staff used the trail for recreation, providing an opportunity for observers to watch how these children and adults with disabilities used each section of the trail with various surfaces, grades, and cross slope. PAW invited the Reg Neg Committee to come out to Colorado and use the trail as part of the educational process for the committee. Recently the U.S. Forest Service and the Continental Divide Trail Alliance received a very large grant to build a new section of the Continental Divide trail on Berthoud Pass. The trail was to be moved and placed in another location and an old road that was used by CDT hikers was to be eliminated and revegetateed. The Forest Service had to publish a decision memo called the (inaudible) relocation project. In it, the district ranger for the project states the purpose and needs for the action. He lists the following. I’ll only read two. Enhance the experience for visitors to the CDNST and Berthoud Pass. Provide a continuous and appealing trail route for users. In this section was also the following quote: Relocating the CDNST off of the steep and eroded road and constructing a sustainable route would reduce further erosion and creation of social trails, enhance the visitor’s experience to CDNST.
Under the Section II, public involvement, the first paragraph states the following: “A team of Forest Service and Continental Divide Trail Alliance staff conducted on site reviews and surveys during August 2005. The purpose of the review was to determine the best location of the trail and if extraordinary circumstances existed in the in relation to the proposed project. None were identified. Subsequent public involvement on the resulting proposed action was conducted to provide notice of a 30 day comment period. Several comments were included in the report. The one most important for this presentation is this: “Comment: Ensure that new construction of the CDNST meets the Forest Service manual direction 2333.33 that all new, altered or reconstructed recreation sites accommodate all people (including persons with disabilities) to the greatest extent possible. Therefore make the relocated sections of the CDNST accessible to persons of all abilities. Additionally, provide a section of the CDNST which will be universally accessible to an overlook above timberline.”
The response of the Forest Service was this: “The project has been screened using Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines. According to Section 7.1.1, conditions for departure, the trail project meets condition 4. ‘Where compliance will be impractical due to the terrain or prevailing construction practices.’ Upon closer review of the trail, in order to achieve the appropriate grade for accessibility standards on the steep side slope, the trail would be significantly longer and have numerous switchbacks. This would require extensive cuts and fills that would be difficult to construct and maintain, causing a much greater impact to the environment, and does not meet the intent and scope of the project.”
It was the result of this answer for the comment found in the Forest Service decision for the Continental Divide trail that PAW went to the Colorado School of Mines engineering students and asked them to use the proposed guidelines for trails and to design an accessible trail for the Continental Divide trail where the Forest Service had opted out of making the new CDT accessible.
The students that took on the project were sophomore engineering students, many of which were from out of the state of Colorado. This was their first experience climbing a serious mountain.
The students were provided with resources to help them understand the guidelines as proposed by the Reg Neg Committee. These included assistance from Rob Gilkerson, information specialist for the Rocky Mountain ADA Center. He provided the students with an excellent tool from the national center for accessibility on accessible trails. I was also available to answer the students’ questions.
The students’ project was to map the original trail and road, along with the proposed CDNA trail as designed by the U.S. Forest Service. I visited the site of the CDT on Berthoud Pass with them and showed them from the parking lot where the trail began and using maps showed them the old abandoned ski lift shack and the old road to it. Their finished product included photos with GPS readings of the old trail and road, along with maps and their measurements and their proposed route. Their final report showed that the new section of the CDT should be designed to meet the guidelines proposed by the Reg Neg Committee.
U.S. Highway 40 is heavily used both in the winter and the summer. The U.S. Forest Service is currently adding a warming hut, restrooms and exhibits this summer. Others stop just to walk a section of the CDT, so they can tell their friends back home of their accomplishments. I’m going to forget this one.
We are now current I’m going to skip down to here.
PAW was started in 1988 as a partnership between the White River National Forest and the Vail/Eagle Valley Rotary. It’s a purpose of a partnership between the public and private sectors. And I will summarize my last.
We’re in the process of creating the Berthoud Pass research corridor which we hope will become a national trail, and Tim, if you would stand a minute. Tim Mock is from Congressman Udall’s office and we are in the process of hoping to have this designation. We will be working on that and we would like to talk about it further with you. Thank you.
[Additional remarks made after all registered speakers concluded their testimony:]
CAROL HUNTER: Well, my comments were, when I quit, that the Forest Service had decided to opt out from making the Continental Divide trail new construction on Berthoud Pass acceptable. They took option four.
We went to the Colorado School of Mines, once again, and we asked the students they were sophomore engineering students to begin to see if they could make an accessible trail in the same section that the Forest Service opted out of.
Well, from there, what I want to lead to is what PAW is doing now in the future, and how it relates to the Reg Neg proposals.
In the last 10 years, Partners for Access to the Woods, has put all of its emphasis on the Berthoud Pass research corridor for universal design. The corridor is a partnership of federal, state, and local agencies. The purpose of the corridor is to provide an outdoor classroom for testing universal design for outdoor recreation facilities, programs, and products.
The corridor is 26 miles long, beginning at Colorado’s Easter Seals camp at empire junction on Interstate 70, and following U.S. Highway 40 up and over Berthoud Pass and the Continental Divide.
It continues down the north side of the pass, ending at the national sports center for the disabled in Winter Park. A memorandum of understanding, an MOU, was signed on April 17th, 2000, to create the corridor partnership.
The MOU states that the projects of the partners on Berthoud Pass will use universal design. Finding successful designs in this difficult environment makes it easier for others in less challenging environments to succeed with an accessible trail or other recreation experiences.
Some of the partners of the corridor are the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado School of Mines, the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Clear Creek and grand counties are also local governments on both sides of the pass and are strong partners.
The corridor includes two historic roads. The first is the empire middle park wagon road. Construction began in the 1860s for this important road of which large sections remain along the corridor today.
The second road is the midland trail, one of the first east/west automobile roads in the country.
This road was started in 1921 and several sections of the original road remain today.
The partners are working to restore the wagon road as a multiuse, non motorized research trail, using the new Reg Neg guidelines. This trail will be unique, in that it crosses the Continental Divide at the summit of Berthoud Pass and meets the American trail going east to west across the country.
PAW has met with representatives from Congressman Udall and Senator Salazar office for the purpose of designating the wagon road as a national research trail for universal design. And again, this trail would be testing the Reg Neg proposal.
I would like to introduce to you again Tim Mock from Congressman Udall’s office. You can stand higher than that.
CAROL HUNTER: We will be continuing the discussion with Congressman Udall and Senator Salazar in August.
There are several sections of the original automobile road on Berthoud Pass. These are in the process of being designated as outdoor classrooms for experiments on outdoor exhibits with special emphasis on the needs of persons with hearing and visual impairments.
Key partners for this ongoing project are the Colorado School of Mines, the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, and the Colorado Department of Transportation. This 1920 map shows both the wagon road and the newly constructed automobile road.
To summarize, it is felt that the proposed rule, as written, needs to present a much stronger case for federal agencies to begin their design process for trails and campgrounds with the assumption that the trail or campground be accessible.
Part of this process for a design team is that several different designs must be tried before taking an exemption to opt out of the accessibility design process.
The second part of this conclusion for this presentation is that several different and easy to understand educational materials and resources must be available for the person in the field who must implement the accessible design. Thank you.
PHILIP PEARCE (BOARD MEMBER): No. Thank you very much.
PHILIP PEARCE: I think that we all agree that the educational piece is a really important part of this, and we’re going to strive for that as well.
CAROL HUNTER: Yes. And it has to be something that people can see.
PHILIP PEARCE: Yeah. Because if they don’t understand it, then they’re not going to follow it.
CAROL HUNTER: That was the thing that we learned the most from Gary’s trail. We had National Park employees from as far away as Virginia that would come out and test the and they said it was the first time that they could see what the regs meant, and I think that has to be done as well for the Reg Neg Committee. Somewhere it has to be on the ground. We hope it’s in Colorado, so…