General Land Office of Texas, Coastal Resources; Jerry Patterson
Dear Mr. Botten:
Thank you for providing the opportunity to comment on Proposed Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas as published in the Federal Register on June 20, 2007. As the state agency responsible for implementing the Texas Coastal Management Plan and enforcing the Open Beaches Act and the Dune Protection Act in Texas, the proposed guidelines are of great importance to the General Land Office even though they are applicable only to outdoor recreation areas under the jurisdiction of federal agencies.
The following comments are submitted for consideration by the Board as it seeks to finalize these guidelines:
- General Comment – The proposed guidelines for Federal Outdoor Developed Areas should be considered for usage as the basis for evaluation of similar non-federal areas rather than attempting to utilize subjective interpretations of existing regulations for dissimilar areas such as buildings and other structural facilities.
- General Comment – Enforcement actions for non-federal outdoor recreation areas not presently subject to any guidelines should be “goal oriented.” It is encouraging to note that the guidelines seem to recognize that not every feature of every area or facility must be accessible, just as the ADA recognizes that not every entrance to every building must be accessible. Local government entities administering and managing such areas should not be considered out of compliance until such guidelines are adopted for non-federal areas. Local governments must be allowed to make a “best effort” to address such compliance issues until uniform standards for non-federal outdoor developed areas are adopted.
- Response to Question 17 – Vehicular access is considered a primary means of access to most Texas beaches for disabled and non-disabled persons and should be recognized as an acceptable option for providing access for disabled beach users. Standards should be specifically outlined to provide for areas that are closed to vehicular access or densely populatedareas. To mandate strict standards for every access point to be accessible places an undue burden on the local governments responsible for management of public access and results in increased environmental pressure that affects the natural dune system, dune vegetation, endangered species nesting habitat and critical habitat of migrating birds.
- Response Question 17, Exemptions 1.2.3 & 5 – The Texas General Land Office concurs that these exemptions are appropriate and necessary to recognize the variety of conditions and challenges that will have to be addressed to provide reasonable opportunities for use of outdoor recreational areas by all who desire to do so. Reasonable standards with built-in flexibility will result in facilities suited to the myriad outdoor environments enjoyed by the American public.
- Response to Question 17, Exemption 4 – The Texas General Land Office heartily concurs with Exemption 4, which “exempts a beach access route from being required where another beach access route exists within one-half mile and is within the beach of the same jurisdiction”. The premise of Comment 3 above (strict standards can impose an undue burden on local governments and unwarranted pressure on the environment) also applies to this exemption.
- Response to T305, Beach Access Routes – The General Land Office does not concur that “beach access routes” should extend to the high tide level. Even though the range of tides in Texas is relatively low, the protrusion of improved beach access routes, such as beach walkovers constructed primarily with timbers, would significantly interfere with all access to the beach including disabled access. When the tide level is high, beachgoers would be forced to enter the water to traverse the beach parallel to the shoreline. Any storm tide event that exceed the prevailing high tide line would damage or destroy a beach access route such as a walkover, a paved path, or a mat that went to the normal edge of the water.
Additionally, beach access routes which extend to the mean high tide could adversely impact benthic organisms, endangered species, nesting habitat, and critical habitat for migrating birds.
The General Land Office suggests conducting research on removable mats or temporary trail stabilization methods that allow local governments that manage and maintain the beaches to remove the access features in the case of a storm or tidal event and for maintenance of the beach. The proposed definition for beach access routes and the related standards for implementation are not viable for the highly dynamic environment in which outdoor recreation areas are developed along the Gulf of Mexico and the Texas coast.
If you have any questions about these comments, please contact Ms. Jody Henneke, Deputy Commissioner of Coastal Resources, at (512)463-6542 or via email at [email]. You may also contact Mr. Eddie Fisher, Director of Coastal Protection, at (512)463-9215 or via email at [email].
Commissioner, General Land Office
cc: Steve LeBlanc, City Manager, City of Galveston
Susie Green, City Attorney, City of Galveston
Lloyd Rinderer, Assistant City Attorney, City of Galveston
Wendy O’Donohoe, Director, Planning/Community Development
Lou Muller, Galveston Park Board of Trustees
Sharon Eller, Director, Dept. of Interior, Office of Civil Rights
Jack Andre, Acting Chief, PCR Division, Office of Civil Rights
Dianne A. Spriggs, EEO Program Manger