Resources and Library:

Accessible Trails

Hosted by AmericanTrails.org

The Conemaugh Valley Conservancy Valley Conservancy West Penn Trail Accessibility Policy is based on a determation that persons with a mobility disability may use "Any electric propulsion device on the West Penn Trail that does not exceed 750 watts or 1-HP in power and is no wider than 36 inches."

ARROW Download the Conemaugh Valley ADA Public Policy document in pdf format (pdf 20 kb)

 

West Penn Trail Handicapped Accessibility Policy

photo of tunnel

West Penn Trail Elders Run Tunnel

From Conemaugh Valley Conservancy (CVC)


West Penn Trail Handicapped Accessibility Policy

The Department of Justice has amended its regulation implementing Title II and Title III of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The amended regulations require organizations managing trails that are open to the public to conduct an assessment to determine if individuals with mobility disabilities can be accommodated on all or portions of the trail using “other power-driven mobility devices” (OPDMD).

The requirements in the rule take effect on March 15, 2011.

A trail organization is required to make reasonable modifications in its policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of other power-driven mobility devices by individuals with mobility disabilities, unless the trail organization can demonstrate that specific power-driven mobility devices cannot be operated in accordance with legitimate safety and other requirements that the trail organization has adopted based on actual risks referenced in the ruling’s Assessment Factors section.

The Assessment Factors are designed to assist trail organizations in determining whether allowing the use of a particular mobility device on a specific trail is reasonable. Thus, the focus of the analysis must be on the appropriateness of the use of the device on a specific trail or trail section, rather than whether it is necessary for an individual to use a particular device.

Assessment Factors

The Assessment Factors referenced in the regulation and used by the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy in developing its accessibility policy are:
(a) “The type, size, weight, dimensions, and speed of the device;
(b) The volume of trail devices and pedestrian traffic;
(c) The design and operational characteristics of the trail;
(d) Whether legitimate safety requirements can be established to permit the safe operation of the other power-driven mobility device on the specific trail or trail section; and
(e) Whether the use of the other power-driven mobility device creates a substantial risk of serious harm to the immediate environment or natural or cultural resources, or poses a conflict with Federal land management laws and regulations.”

Conemaugh Valley Conservancy West Penn Trail Accessibility Policy

After analyzing the above-referenced Assessment Factors, it has been determined that persons with a mobility disability may use any electric propulsion device on the West Penn Trail that does not exceed 750 watts or 1-HP in power and is no wider than
36 inches. All power driven wheelchairs are also permitted. No other power driven devices may be used, including but not limited to any gas or similarly powered combustible fuel devices, ATV’s, golf carts, or dirt bikes.

Furthermore, the CVC has established a maximum trail speed of 20 mph for all devices operated on the trail, regardless of whether the device is a power-driven or non-power driven device.

Note that Pennsylvania requires all children under the age of 12 operating devices of any kind to wear helmets. The CVC strongly encourages all trail visitors using motorized or non-motorized devices to wear helmets for safety.

Also note that the West Penn Trail is closed to all users at dusk each day. In addition, the switchback section of the Conemaugh River Lake Section, which traverses what is referred to as Bow Ridge, consists of a steep grade unsuitable for anyone riding either a power-driven or non-power-driven device, either ascending or descending. At the ascending point, all users must be able to negotiate a flight of stairs to access the beginning of the switchback.

All trail users are advised that the Conemaugh River Lake Section is subject to periodic flooding. Water levels can rise quickly.
With the adoption of this policy, the CVC is temporarily excluding from compliance with the policy that portion of the West Penn Trail leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) as well as trails on USACOE property at the Conemaugh River Lake. As a federal entity, the USACOE is not required at this time to comply with the amended ADA regulation. However, the USACOE is reviewing the CVC policy to determine if it can voluntarily comply with the policy in order to provide enhanced access to persons with mobility disabilities. Once a decision is made by the USACOE, public notice will be provided.

Note that a detailed discussion on the CVC’s review of the Assessment Factors is contained in Attachment 1 to this policy.

Validation of Mobility Disability

Persons with a mobility disability may show a valid, State-issued, disability parking placard or card, or other State-issued proof of disability that has been issued to them, or they may state that they are using the mobility device due to a mobility disability. The trail organization representatives may not ask about the nature and extent of the individual’s disability. The rule also adds that the claim of a mobility disability must be considered valid as long as it is not contradicted by observable fact.

Public Notification
The Conemaugh Valley Conservancy will post the above policy at all West Penn Trail trailheads, on its website (conemaughvalleyconservancy.org - click link to News & Events), and is available to anyone in written or digital form by contacting the CVC at JQKA@atlanticbb.net or 814.479.7162. Additional information or questions may be directed to the CVC at this email address or telephone number.

 

Attachment 1

Assessment Factors

The Assessment Factors referenced in the regulation and used by the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy in developing its accessibility policy are:
(a)“The type, size, weight, dimensions, and speed of the device;
(b) The volume of trail devices and pedestrian traffic;
(c) The design and operational characteristics of the trail;
(d) Whether legitimate safety requirements can be established to permit the safe operation of the other power-driven mobility device on the specific trail or trail section; and
(e) Whether the use of the other power-driven mobility device creates a substantial risk of serious harm to the immediate environment or natural or cultural resources, or poses a conflict with Federal land management laws and regulations.”

Discussion:

The CVC’s Trail Council was charged with the task of conducting an assessment using the ADA Assessment Factors. Here is a synopsis of the discussions that took place.

1. Whether the use of the other power-driven mobility device creates a substantial risk of serious harm to the immediate environment or natural or cultural resources, or poses a conflict with Federal land management laws and regulations.

The policy references the fact that:

The CVC is temporarily excluding from compliance with the policy that portion of the West Penn Trail leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) as well as trails on USACOE property at the Conemaugh River Lake. As a federal entity, the USACOE is not required at this time to comply with the amended ADA regulation. However, the USACOE is reviewing the CVC policy to determine if it can voluntarily comply with the policy in order to provide enhanced access to persons with mobility disabilities. Once a decision is made by the USACOE, public notice will be provided.

2. The following three Assessment Factors will be discussed as one topic:
• The type, size, weight, dimensions, and speed of the device;
• The design and operational characteristics of the trail;
• Whether legitimate safety requirements can be established to permit the safe operation of the other power-driven mobility device on the specific trail or trail section.

Trail Surface

With the exception of the Conemaugh River Lake Section of the West Penn Trail, which has a bituminous surface, the trail surface consists of crushed sandstone over a base of #2 stone. In addition, the switchback section of the Conemaugh River Lake Section, which traverses what is referred to as Bow Ridge, is a surface covered with the same material and consists of a steep grade unsuitable for anyone riding either a power-driven or non-power-driven device, either ascending or descending.

The limestone surface can accommodate the weight of all pedestrians and all non-power-driven pedal assisted devices. However, the CVC has determined that the weight of power-assisted devices with a horsepower greater than 1-HP poses a threat to the structural stability of the surface, especially when the surface is wet. And any shifting of the surface, under any conditions, simultaneously poses a safety risk to the device user.

Trail Width

The typical width of the West Penn Trail is 8-feet. This width allows for the safe passage of pedestrians and bicycles moving in opposite directions. However, this policy restricts power-driven devices wider than 36 inches for the same reason that the CVC prohibits non-power-driven devices that exceed the same width. Devices wider than 36 inches pose a safety threat to trail users coming from the opposite direction as well as poses a threat to pedestrians or users of devices who elect to pass a user of a device on the trail.

Trail Speed

This policy establishes a maximum trail speed of 20 mph for all devices operated on the trail, regardless of whether the device is a power-driven or non-power-driven device.

The CVC has determined that even though both power-driven and non-power-driven devices have the potential to exceed this speed limit, exceeding this limit poses a threat to both the safety of the user and to other trail users.

Gas or similarly powered combustible fuel devices, including but not limited to ATV’s, golf carts, or dirt bikes.

The CVC has determined that any power-driven device that uses a combustion process to ignite a fuel for propulsion is not permitted. This position was established for three reasons:

a. Exhaust produced by these devices is detrimental to the health of both the device user and especially to other trail users, especially users of other power-driven and non-power-driven devices.

Specifically, the CVC references a study conducted by Transport Research Institute at Hasselt University in Belgium and published in May 2010 in the journal Atmospheric Environment that found that bicyclists inhale tens of millions of toxic nanoparticles with every breath, at least five times more than pedestrians. The study determined that the particles, when inhaled, have been linked to heart disease and respiratory problems.

In a 2007 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at Imperial College of London found that pedestrians exposed to exhaust flumes suffered asthma symptoms such as reduced breathing capacity and lung inflammation.

b. The West Penn Trail is located in Indiana and Westmoreland counties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated both counties as nonattainment areas for all criteria of pollutants as of December 2010.

Allowing devices that produce exhaust would only exacerbate the problem.

c. The Conemaugh River Lake Section of the West Penn Trail has several ditches running parallel with the trail that are filled with water that serve as habits for an endangered salamander as identified by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Thus the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, from whom the trail section is leased, prohibit any device that poses a risk to these salamanders from the spill of fuel or oil used in gas or similarly powered combustible fuel devices.

ADA policy adopted by the Board of Directors of the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy at a regularly scheduled meeting held March 14, 2011.

Michael Burk, President


ARROW Download the Conemaugh Valley ADA Public Policy document in pdf format (pdf 20 kb)

MORE RESOURCES

American Trails index on accessible trails, outdoor recreation, and the Americans with Disabilities Act

See DOJ ADA Website

Aditional information and comments on the “power-driven mobility device" issue:

Print Friendly
Print Friendly and PDF

 

 

 

Facebook Twitter

Stay up to date on legislative issues for trails, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

business directory

 

trail database

Need trail skills and education? Do you provide training? Join the National Trails Training Partnership!

The NTTP Online Calendar connects you with courses, conferences, and trail-related training

arrowEnjoy and share the new online, digital version of the American Trails Magazine!

arrowHelp us provide you more useful resources to keep you on the cutting-edge -- please join today!

arrowWe are advocating for your interests! Visit the Supporting Trails page to view the latest in legislative news, current issues, and opportunities, and to learn how to access funding.

arrow Sign up for American Trails Action Alerts and Trail Tracks e-Newsletters.

 

PDF  Some of our documents are in PDF format and require free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.
  Download Acrobat Reader

section 508 logo American Trails and NTTP support accessibility with Section 508: read more.