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Accessible Trails

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arrow From the Spring 2010 issue of American Trails Magazine

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Beneficial Designs works for accessible trails

photo of sign

accessible trail sign

Beneficial Designs develops assessment systems and devices to give people the information they need to access a variety of environments. Their work involves new technologies to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, including assessments of trails and public rights-of-ways.

Current projects include:

UTAP & TrailWare 2.0 Workshops

There are currently 1,044 trail enthusiasts trained to lead assessments using the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP). In addition to workshops held recently in California and North Carolina, Florida continues to lead the way in providing training to their trails personnel and was presented a “Best Trails State” award by American Trails in 2008.

Trail assessment coordinators are involving various groups to assist in the UTAP process, including Girl Scouts, 4-H Clubs, and high school and college students. Beneficial Designs provides the training materials and tools through PaxPress, while American Trails coordinates most UTAP training courses.

TrailWare 2.0 is used to generate trail access information, signage, and trail management reports. Data is uploaded to the Trail Explorer website at For more information, contact

Recreation Trails

We are working on our third Nevada Recreational Trails Program project to provide signage in Northern Nevada. The goal is to continue making Trail Access Information (TAI) widely available in Northern Nevada for a variety of trails and trail users. In 2007/2008, we assessed 29 trails totaling 37.8 miles. A total of 80 TAI signs and 9 full panel color trail signs were created and installed. This year, we have assessed 103 miles of trail and are creating full color trail maps and TAI signs for at least 12 different parks.

photo of wheelchair and gate

Peter demonstrating the Accessible Trail Gate Barrier

Tahoe Meadows (near Lake Tahoe)

This project is designed to improve trail access and opportunities while protecting the natural and archeological resources within and around Tahoe Meadows. In cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and Nevada State Parks, three new loop trails totaling 3.4 miles have been built or improved, including 1,200 feet of boardwalk along Ophir Creek. Two new stair sets and a new turnpike have also been constructed. Completion of this project is anticipated in 2010 with a new bridge over Ophir Creek, an interpretive sign, multiple directional signs, and a trails map.

High Efficiency Trail Assessment Process

This project created the Wheeled Instrumentation Sensor Package (WISP) to collect more accurate, objective information about trails, including shared use paths, backcountry singletrack trails, and cross-country ski trails. To date, 70 trails have been assessed in Northern Nevada using the new system. Multiple HETAP systems have been purchased by state and city land managers and the National Park Service in Florida, Arizona, and Canada. This system has been commercially available through Beneficial Designs for the past year.

Accessible Trail Gate Barrier

The goal of this project is to design an electronic trail gate barrier that can be used with or without a mechanical trail gate barrier to restrict access to motorized trail vehicles, and allow access to personal mobility device users. The system uses infrared heat detection technologies to detect and report violations by motorized vehicle users.

Surface Accessibility

The Rotational Penetrometer (RP) measures the firmness and stability of trail surfaces, carpet, and other pedestrian routes. The RP is commercially available through Beneficial Designs. It is currently under review as an ASTM standard test method for the measurement of surface firmness and stability.

photo of man

Peter Axelson, founder of Beneficial Designs


A Standardized Assessment Process of Outdoor Recreation Facilities

This project will create methods for assessing the accessibility of recreation elements used for outdoor recreation, picnic and camping facilities, such as picnic tables, fire rings, and water pumps.

Public Rights-of-Way Assessment Process to Determine Accessibility

Beneficial Designs developed a manual sidewalk assessment process (SWAP) to systematically measure elements within the pedestrian environment, such as curb ramps and driveway crossings. In phase I, we were able to automate the process to reduce the time to perform assessments to 20% of the time required to perform assessments manually. We have added a laser to measure transition heights to detect tripping hazards. We have submitted a request to the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) for Phase II funding to develop a commercial product.

Adaptive Ski Equipment Standards

Peter Axelson is chair of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) standards committee that developed specifications and test methods for adaptive ski equipment. The standard was published in December of 2007 as a RESNA American National Standard. The committee meets each year in December in conjunction with the Ski Spectacular event in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Canoe Seating System

The Universal Design Canoe Seat is finished and is now commercially available! The seat replaces the existing bench seat. It provides adjustable pelvic, back, and lateral supports to improve balance and comfort. For more information, contact Chosen Valley Canoe Accessories at (507) 867-3961 or For information about Beneficial Designs, visit the website at

American Trails coordinates workshops on both the UTAP and TrailWare. Read more about these courses at

Beneficial Designs: PO Box 69, Minden NV 89423 PHone 775- 783-8822 -

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