Wayne National Forest employees recognized for accessibility work

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NELSONVILLE — U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell recognized the Wayne National Forest when he recently announced several national accessibility accomplishment awards for extraordinary efforts to integrate accessibility into national forests and grasslands facilities to better serve all visitors.

The Wayne National Forest leadership, recreation and engineering staff was honored for successfully completing notable recreation projects that demonstrate the Forest’s commitment to providing accessible recreation facilities and programs.

The projects include the new fully accessible Frontier Boat Launch in Washington County north of Marietta, Ohio, along the Ohio River Scenic Byway.

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The project is considered the largest cooperative project of its kind that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft has ever undertaken, and is one of the few fully accessible boat launch facilities along that section of the Ohio River. The Forest also renovated Leith Run and Oak Hill campgrounds.

Tidwell also recognized three national winners and 17 other national honorees. A complete list is online www.fs.fed.us/news/2012/releases/07/accessibility-winners.shtml.

The Agency’s accessibility work improves access to outdoor recreation for all, including for the 54 million people in the U.S. who have disabilities, the largest minority in the country. The U.S. Forest Service has more than 20,000 accessible recreation units, such as campsites and picnic areas, and more than 7,000 accessible recreation buildings.

In surveys, roughly 7 percent of national forest and grassland visitors self-disclosed that at least one person in their group had a disability, which translates to roughly 14 million of the Forest Service’s 172 million recreation visitors each year.

Since the enactment of the Agency’s 1993 universal design policy, the highest accessibility standard of any federal agency, all new or altered Forest Service outdoor recreation facilities are required to comply with the provisions of the policy.

“The Forest Service is the only entity with legally mandated accessibility guidelines for developed outdoor recreation sites and so the Agency exceeds the minimum requirements of the federal accessibility guidelines,” said Janet Zeller, the Agency’s accessibility program manager. “When accessibility is integrated into a project from the beginning there is little or no additional expense.”