Friday, August 15, 2008

Wheelchair trail details

Greg Stahl made several factual errors regarding CIEDRA's proposed wheelchair-accessible trails in his recent article on Rep. Simpson's hike to one of those trails at Phyllis Lake.  As a longtime wheelchair user who has worked hard to incorporate accessible trail language into that legislation, I feel compelled to set the story straight.  

Firstly, Stahl incorrectly assumes wheelchairs are not allowed in Wilderness areas because they are mechanized.  The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), in Section 507, reconciled with the Wilderness Act by expressly allowing wheelchairs used for everyday indoor/outdoor mobility in Wilderness areas.  The caveat was that managing agencies aren't required to make any special provisions for wheelers.  Conversely, they are not prevented from doing so, either.

Secondly, contrary to Stahl's assertion, the proposed trails will indeed be primitive, dirt/gravel packed, and just wide enough (36 inches) to accommodate a wheelchair (CIEDRA expressly states this).  I suggest Stahl take a walk at the popular wheelchair friendly trail at Boundary Creek along Trail Creek to view a rough example.

Thirdly, Stahl is also wrong on the location of the other proposed primitive-access wheelchair trail in CIEDRA.  It is the first mile of the Murdock Creek trail, not the West Fork of the East Fork Salmon trail.  That change to CIEDRA was made back in 2006.  In 2007, the Forest Service completed an environmental assessment of the Murdock Creek accessible trail proposal and supports the conversion of the first mile of that trail.

Simpson should be commended for having the courage to include primitive-access wheelchair trails in his CIEDRA legislation.  Building these trails will help erase misperceptions about disabled recreation fed by misinformation such as that in Stahl's article.

Erik Schultz


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