CANDACE ASHTON: My name is Candy Ashton, and I am currently a professor and coordinator of two degreed programs at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. I'll be the last member of the NRPA working group to address y'all today. I'm the past president of the National Therapeutic Recreation Society. I've been a recreation therapist for over 30 years 10 years in direct practice before going to grad school. So my professional role has been an advocate for people with disabilities in all areas, especially in the area of access.
On another personal note, I'm a seventh-generation native Floridian and I've lived all of my life or most of it except the six years at grad school landlocked at the University of Illinois on or near a coastal area so another strong value of mine is beach preservation. So I want to start out by saying that to me, beach preservation as well as beach access are not two mutually exclusive concepts. I'm, like I said, going to address the beach issues today and these questions. I also, we were talking about signage earlier and on the top left sign, I'm not sure if you can see it or not, but it not only shows someone with -- the universal access sign for a wheelchair but someone pushing a baby carriage so I think that's important signage.
I've listed the questions and I've paraphrased the questions you all have proposed in the proposed rules. The first question has to deal with -- should a higher than six-inch threshold be used to trigger an exception to pedestrian routes or board walks? And I think I want to start by saying this was probably the most difficult question for us to address because we really weren't sure what you meant by this and so that question or that rule might need to be made clearer. But we did agree with you that the six-inch exception to this is very -- is too broad in that a less -- that a six-inch rise is actually less than a stair riser which is about eight inches and in essence, if a board walk or pedestrian access is only six inches off the ground, it really invites the person who is walking on that access to step down and access the beach. OK, it's not a barrier, it's not telling you you're not supposed to go to the beach that way. So that we are agreeing that the exception six to this T205.3 should be completely eliminated. Or as an alternative, but this is not our favorite alternative, that a higher threshold be made. Also in question number 4, and this is also addressed in a couple other places, but the idea of needing to specify how frequently beach access routes must be provided on an existing beach and after much discussion, we suggest that one be provided every mile on an existing beach or at least one per jurisdiction.
We also understand that unique conditions and barriers exist for those operating an existing beach therefore requirements for existing beaches could be more lenient and that's why we chose the mile.
Regarding question number 5, should beach access routes be wider than 36 inches, we believe they should be wider and we are suggesting a 48-inch maximum or 48-inch width. And the reason we're suggesting this, it's not unusual today to find wheelchairs and other mobility devices that are 42 inches wide. Especially when we're looking at scooters and larger chairs. And we know that different conditions exist on a beach access route than on a trail. For example, if your wheelchair goes off of the beach access route and it's on the beach, it's a lot more difficult to get out of the sand than it is to get off of a hard surface or another type of trail so that's why we're suggesting that it be 48 inches.
Another question in that same section was should passing paces be provided more frequently than every 200 feet and we felt that 200 feet was a good measure and that should be maintained.
Question number 6, should beach access routes connect managed elements and spaces located on a beach? And we said yes, it should, but it should be revised to include the requirement that beach access routes connect managed elements and spaces often located on a beach such as concession stands, volleyball pits, playgrounds, rest rooms, first aid stations and those kind of things. We felt that more clarification was needed regarding the location of beach access route. It should also consider water level conditions that could change depending on climate conditions such as flooding or drought. Regarding question 15 should beach access routes be constructed every half mile along a new beach we said yes, that's an appropriate measure. We felt more clarification was needed also, individuals wanted to know if the location of a beach access route should also consider water conditions. All right, like in the above statement.
Question number there we go, number 16. Are there any other situations that would preclude the compliance of the technical provisions of beach access routes? We felt that there are other exceptions to these changes in the water levels, conditions and location due to natural environmental changes and as there are other changes for which infeasible would preclude compliance for technical provisions for beach access and we've listed a number of those here such as med, sediment sand, wind or water born materials on the beach, changes to beaches due to major storms, significant erosion, changes to beachfront or changes in slope or grade and significant changes in average water level due to natural conditions.
Question number 17. Should the provision of constructed parking spaces adjoining the beach trigger a beach access route. We felt if a parking lot is constructed adjoining a beach that a new parking lot that includes some type of amenities such as bathroom facilities, then we believe a beach access route should also be provided. We believe that the existence of amenities with the parking lot should be the trigger for this exception, not the total number of parking spaces provided. Once again, I think, as John mentioned, the prevailing thought of the group was the more an outdoor area is developed, the more access should be provided.
Regarding question number 18, is there a need to distinguish between certain beach nourishment projects? Basically, the group wanted clarification as to what was really meant by "beach nourishment." We felt if the definition of beach nourishment justifies any type of project that expands or alters the characteristics of an existing beach, then the beach access route should be required. If this broader definition of beach nourishment is what the board is utilizing then exemption in T205.3 should be eliminated. Once again, clarification is needed as to what the board includes when it refers to beach nourishment. And if a beach nourishment project incorporates any new beach areas then a beach access route should be required. If a beach nourishment project alters the size or characteristics of a beach then we thought it should require certain beach access route. We also suggest adding another exception to T205.3. To protect federal land that has been designated as a conservation management area for the protection of rare, threatened or endangered species or has other unique conservation, management priorities then beach access routes should not be required to be constructed over existing or new beaches on lands in this status.
OK, question number 22. Should beach access route extend to the high tide level, mean riverbed level or the normal recreation water level? Yes, we felt these were very important markers. We suggest that there needs to be an addition of definitions for these markers and we also suggest that a sentence that reads "the beach access route shall extend to a point at which a user can safely and effectively enter the body of water" would help make this clearer.
I think for me personally this was one of the most important areas of the rules. The idea that you can go to the beach but not go to the water is just an unbelievable concept to me and I saw that, how devastated my father was when he became a wheelchair user and couldn't get into the water anymore.
What technical specifications should be required approximate if an entity decides not to provide the route into the water? We felt that if an entity did decide to provide -- if a entity decides to provide a route into the water, then this route should follow the requirements already outlined in guidelines created for aquatic facilities and marinas for transfers, ramps, slopes, design and other characteristics. I believe that's all we have on beaches.
PHILIP PEARCE [BOARD MEMBER]: I do have a couple of questions for you. First one relates to the six-inch trigger. And I'm going to kind of turn to some of the staff members on that as well. And Bill, I'll pass the question on to you, Bill Botten. What was intended by those requirements, the six-inch requirement, is it so that it does cross a path that has a six-inch rise, was that the intent?
BILL BOTTEN [ACCESS BOARD STAFF]: And Peggy almost probably could speak to this a little bit better than I could in that she was there during the evolution of this provision in that the thought was that if there's a board walk running parallel with the water, not actually crossing the surface of a beach, that if it was elevated at six inches or greater, it would not trigger that every half mile beach access route. And I think at the time of this provision, there wasn't a lot of information on how people were ramping down from large board walks into the sand and providing a beach access route. And so I think they looked at a threshold that was a compromise, is my understanding, maybe. Of where these routes should actually be triggered. And the threshold came at six inches.
PEGGY GREENWELL [ACCESS BOARD STAFF]: Well, and I would add that there was concern about board walks that are elevated six, 10, 15 feet off the sand. And the cost involved with providing access -- a beach access route. First you have to, you know, traverse that elevation change to get to the surface of the sand and then the route would have to go out to the water. So there was concern about highly elevated board walks that were along the beach, the six-inch exception really got added sort of in the 11th hour of the debates and there was a lot of concern as it moved forward that it may not be appropriate.
PHILIP PEARCE: So understanding that I know that a lot of your comments are related to your committee's work and understanding that, I'm asking you because of your experience, do you feel like that that is a reasonable -- in light of that? Or did you already know that that was the intent or the reason for that provision being in there? And does that change anything as far as your perspective?
Candace Ashton: I did not interpret it that way --
PHILIP PEARCE [BOARD MEMBER]: I kind of got the impression you didn't.
CANDACE ASHTON: Let me think. I still think that there needs to be a higher threshold than six inches, I think the committee would agree with that also in light of the way that you described it. You think so? Yeah.
PHILIP PEARCE: So from your perspective that if there's a beach access route and it crosses a board walk or something of that nature, that it would be reasonable, from your perspective, that there would be -- have to be some sort of a ramping system that would ramp the beach access route over the board walk at whatever point that would be?
CANDACE ASHTON: Yes, yes.
PHILIP PEARCE: OK. The second question I have for you relates to some of the -- if I understood your testimony correctly, you were suggesting that there should be some additional exceptions for various -- under various topics and under various circumstances, is that correct?
CANDACE ASHTON: Uh-huh, yes.
PHILIP PEARCE: OK. One of the concerns that we hear fairly often from persons with disabilities is you already got too many exceptions in there now and what that's going to do is encourage people to find a reason to never make beaches accessible. And that's one of the concerns that we've had raised. How do you feel about that? Do you feel that their concerns are founded? Or do you feel that even if the additional exceptions are put in there that there would still be significant accessibility provided at beaches?
CANDACE ASHTON: I believe and I think that the committee would support this, that access was our primary concern, all right, and that was at the forefront of what we thought about, or the majority of the members of the committee thought about. And these exceptions, I think, were very well thought out. And would not provide that much of a hindrance to access.
PHILIP PEARCE: OK. And despite those additional exceptions.
CANDACE ASHTON: Right.
PHILIP PEARCE: That there would still be.
CANDACE ASHTON: Right.
PHILIP PEARCE: Significant accessibility to the beaches and that sort of thing.
CANDACE ASHTON: Yes, yes.
PHILIP PEARCE: Because, I mean, that's just absolutely the way it is, is that you kinda have this butting of the heads, almost, that on the one side, people are saying there’s gotta be these exceptions, you have to take these into exception and, on the other hand, people are saying there should be no exceptions at all, period.
CANDACE ASHTON: We felt that beaches were so susceptible to changes, due to storms and hurricanes and droughts and everything else and that they were probably a little bit more unique circumstances other than other outdoor areas so wanted to keep that in mind.
PHILIP PEARCE: We also know that beach access routes are -- their durability.
CANDACE ASHTON: Vulnerable.
PHILIP PEARCE: For those exact same reasons. It's a question we've struggled with and we have and we'll continue to do so but I appreciate your perspective particularly with the fondness that you obviously have for beaches and thank you for coming here today.
CANDACE ASHTON: Thank you.