Accessible Parks & Trails Program
Parks & Trails New York is dedicated to increasing the accessibility of New York's outdoor spaces for persons with disabilities.
Presently, for the more than 1,200 miles of multi-use trails throughout the state, little information exists on the trail characteristics that can help persons with disabilities decide if a trail may be suitable for them. Without knowing whether a trail will be able to accommodate their needs, persons with disabilities may be reluctant to use New York's parks and trails and thus may be denied the health, recreational, and active transportation benefits they can provide. In addition, many trails could be made more accessible if only trail managers knew what improvements were needed.
This is why Parks & Trails New York launched its Accessible Parks & Trails program to train trail managers and advocates in the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP). UTAP was developed through a national cooperative effort involving federal and state land agencies and organizations advocating for persons with disabilities. UTAP provides standardized, objective information on major trail conditions that affect access -- grade, cross slope, surface type, obstacles, and trail width --- so that everyone can decide for themselves whether a trail meets their interests and abilities. The Federal Highway Administration, NYS Department of Health, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation all endorse UTAP.
Between 2006 and 2008, Parks & Trails New York formally trained more than 50 persons in UTAP, including trail managers, disability rights advocates, trail volunteers, and federal and state agency personnel. Many of these individuals then worked with volunteers to generate accessibility-related trail condition information for selected New York State trails. The information was provided to trail managers so they could create on-site accessibility signage or discover where trail improvements could be made to increase accessibility or address unsafe conditions.
It is Parks & Trails New York's goal for additional New York State multi-use trails to be assessed for accessibility and to make trail accessibility information available on trailhead signage, websites, maps or trail guides for multi-use trails throughout the state.
UTAP training sessions consist of both classroom instruction and outdoor trail sessions. Generally, easier trails with some variation of conditions are used for training the first day. More challenging trails and a greater variety of trail conditions are introduced on the second day. At the end of the second day, a certification exam is given. Participants who score 70% or higher can become certified by American Trails, a national nonprofit trails organization, once they complete a field assessment of one mile of trail.
In return for receiving their training free of charge, they also agree to assess two additional miles of multi-use trail for Parks & Trails New York. Parks & Trails New York helps each participant organize others to assist with these assessments.