Board Holds Information Meeting on Beach Access

July 29, 2008 

On July 23 the Board held a meeting to gather additional information on beach access routes for its use in finalizing guidelines covering access to outdoor sites.  In addition to beach access routes, these guidelines, which the Board proposed for public comment last year, provide specifications for trails, camp sites, and picnic areas at national parks and other Federal lands.  Participants included representatives from the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, the National Center on Accessibility, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as parks and recreation officials, architects, and product manufacturers who shared their experiences providing access routes at beaches.

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Meeting attendees included (l-r): Steve Higgins of the Broward County Environmental Protection Department, Mayor Harry Simmons of Caswell Beach, NC, Tony Pratt of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Peppino Persio and Greg Malon of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and John Fay of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Board presented leading questions and issues it has identified from its review of comments on the proposed guidelines and visits to beaches where access routes have been provided. It sought information on the types of projects and the degree of development that should trigger the provision of beach access routes, the experiences agencies and officials have had providing access to beaches, and environmental impacts, route maintenance, and other considerations that could affect compliance.  The Board also posed questions on technical specifications for beach access routes, including their width, frequency along a shore, distance, and connection to other beach sites.  
Participants indicated that access improvements can be incorporated into beach nourishment and replenishment efforts.  Beach access routes could also be triggered by other site developments, such as provision of boardwalks, parking, public restrooms and changing facilities, and other facilities.  State and county officials from Delaware and Florida, an architect from California, and representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers shared their experiences providing access routes to ocean and lake beaches.  Beach officials noted that route products, including mat systems, have been very popular with the public, not only among people with disabilities, but other beach goers as well, including those with baby strollers or wheeled totes.  A representative from an architectural firm described challenges posed by the terrain in providing access at various beaches in northern California.  The Army Corps of Engineers presented information on projects where permanent routes and ramps have been installed to provide access to lakes.  A mat system manufacturer described available route products and feedback received on a number of installations at various beaches along the eastern seaboard.  Beach operators and product manufacturers recommended that routes be at least 60 wide based on their experiences. 

Concerns were expressed about the amount of maintenance that may be required for routes at ocean beaches and the impact on budgets and staffing.  It was pointed out that certain conditions will likely require routes to be temporarily moved or stored, including storm surges, extreme tides, beach maintenance and replenishment efforts.  Attendees recommended that routes systems stop short of the high water mark at ocean beaches, although this point is not fixed and fluctuates due to a number of environmental factors.  It was noted that the availability of permeable mat systems helped reduce regular maintenance by minimizing sand build up on route surfaces. 

The Board also received information on environmental impacts, including threats to endangered plant and animal species.  The Board previously heard concerns about harm beach routes may pose to endangered species, such as sea turtles, and protections implemented at certain beaches to protect nesting environments.  A representative from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service briefed the Board on responsibilities Federal agencies have under the Endangered Species Act and noted that Service field offices are available to help local entities assess impacts on a case-by-case basis since potential threats vary by location and solutions are more effective when tailored to local conditions.

The Board will use the information gained in this meeting to finalize the guidelines for Federal outdoor sites.   For further information on the meeting or this rulemaking, contact Bill Botten at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , (202) 272-0014 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).