Outdoor Developed Areas: Background

Achieving accessibility in outdoor environments has long been a source of inquiry due to challenges and constraints posed by terrain, the degree of development, construction practices and materials, and other factors. The Board is developing new guidelines for outdoor developed areas that will clarify how, and to what extent, access can be achieved. The guidelines will cover new or altered trails, beaches, and picnic and camping areas. Under this rulemaking, the Board is first developing guidelines for outdoor developed areas managed by the Federal government. Guidelines for non-Federal sites will be developed separately under a subsequent rulemaking.

Current Status: On June 20, 2007, the Board released for public comment proposed guidelines that address access to new or altered trails, beaches, and picnic and camping areas on sites managed by the Federal government. The guidelines would apply to sites developed or altered by Federal land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Army Corps of Engineers, among others.

What’s Next: The proposed guidelines are available for public comment until October 18, 2007. The Board will hold public hearings on the guidelines in Denver on July 24th and in Washington, D.C. on September 6th. Proposed guidelines for non-Federal sites will be published for comment at a future date.

Background: The proposed guidelines were developed by a regulatory negotiation committee chartered by the Board. The Outdoor Developed Areas Regulatory Negotiation Committee’s 27 members included representatives from parks and outdoor recreation associations, disability groups, state and Federal land management agencies, and others. This rulemaking approach enables interested groups and stakeholders to assume a leadership role in drafting a new regulation and provides a forum for different, and sometimes competing, interests to reach consensus on its substance.

The committee met ten times between June 1997 and July 1999. In addition, several workgroups convened to gather information or develop recommendations for the full committee. Committee members sought input from the public on issues related to accessibility in outdoor developed areas. An interest-based model of negotiation was used which relied on committee members to negotiate for their respective constituent groups, with the outcome of the whole in mind. The committee began its deliberations by examining available information on access to outdoor environments, including recommendations from a previous Board advisory committee, the Recreation Access Advisory Committee. Members also examined and discussed other approaches used by states and municipalities in developing accessibility guidelines for trails, picnic and camping facilities, and beaches. The committee submitted its report to the Board in September 1999.

Rulemaking History: