A Closer Look

Segways could be used by park goers with disabilities.

Interpreting Factors

“This rule was written in a very broad application, and it is up to the land mangers to determine the many types of vehicles and look at their trails, and specifically determine to allow or prohibit the various OPDMDs,” says MacDonald.

“The DOJ says assessments should include clear, concise statements of specific rules governing the operation of such devices. They don’t tell you what those rules should be, and land managers have to determine the rules, such as hours of operation or setting the speed limit.”

Since the burden is on the trail manager, park officials are scrambling to devise specific assessment protocols. And any risks listed must be actual risk and not speculation on how the OPDMDs will be used.

Officials must also consider that blanket statements, such as “no motorized vehicles allowed,” will no longer suffice. There must be a substantiated reason why OPDMDs are not permitted on open areas or trails.

Reasons might include specific environmental damage, such as to a prairie or wetland or to the trail structure itself because of the weight of the OPDMD.

Zeller asks, “Is there a [documented] sensitive natural resource immediately adjacent to the trail that could be damaged by the passage of a OPDMD, or is the primary activity–for example, wildlife-protection areas or seasonal bird-nesting area–that the size and noise of OPDMD would create a substantiated risk?”


“We have the obligation to make sure we haven’t unnecessarily set up barriers to the public that just wants to enjoy the outdoors like everyone else,” says Ric Edwards, director of Safety and ADA Compliance with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

“That is our challenge and our opportunity. In some cases, the knee-jerk reaction is that all the trails and pathways through the park are to be leveled and paved. However, that is not the purpose of this ruling.”

IDNR, as well as many other parks and recreation administrators, are developing guidelines to determine the usage of trails.

“The bottom line is people with disabilities are allowed to be as dumb as people that are fully-abled,” says Edwards, who broke his neck when he was 15 years old, and uses both a manual and powered wheelchair. “I’m very grateful to be able to provide both perspectives on accessibility, and prevent discrimination.”

Mike Mrozek, an avid trail user, who utilizes a manual wheelchair for mobility, says, “I’m excited that this is being looked at more specifically; the more things are accessible, the more people benefit.”

“The ADA helps people with disabilities, but the results have benefited other people. For example, people with strollers, older people, people with issues from knees and hip joints also benefit from ramp access.”

Not Set In Stone

Park and trail managers expect the assessment of OPDMD use to be a changing system as new and better assessment tools are engineered and shared.

“It is rough to respond to this new rule, but at the same time it doesn’t say that once you make a regulation, it is set in stone,” says MacDonald.

“The rules can be changed with new technology and new circumstance as well as desire from the public.”

The American Trails organization is serving as a collection house for the assessments created by parks and recreation departments across the United States.

Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at tammy@landsharkcommunications.com.

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