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August 20, 2013

National Jamboree 2013 logo Summit Bechtel ReserveThis year’s National Boy Scout Jamboree at Bechtel Summit in West Virginia featured a day of service project to improve accessibility at the nearby New River Gorge National River.  Boy scouts teamed up with National Park Service personnel to make a trail, picnic and camping areas, parking, and a fishing bridge accessible for people with disabilities.  The project, which took place July 19, taught scouts how to achieve access to the great outdoors and enabled them to earn a Messengers of Peace patch. Over 300 scouts participated in the event, which involved 8 troops from different parts of the country.

“This was an amazing opportunity to raise awareness of accessibility while at the same time serving the community and improving access to a National Park site,” states Bill Botten, an Access Board accessibility specialist who participated in the event.  Botten has been involved in the Board’s development of new accessibility guidelines for outdoor environments.

Bill Botten (l), J.R. Harding (c), and NPS Superintendent Trish Kicklighter (r) kick-off the event with an address to the scouts.
Bill Botten, J.R. Harding, and NPS Superintendent Trish Kicklighter address the scouts.

Botten was joined by J.R. Harding, Ed.D. of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities who previously served as a member and Vice Chair of the Access Board. Harding and Botten assisted the National Park Service (NPS) and the Boy Scouts in planning and conducting the event.  They also helped kick off the event with a brief address to the scouts.  In their remarks, they noted the importance of accessibility to all types of buildings and sites, including outdoors spaces, and how it can be accomplished through careful planning and teamwork.

“The National Park Service and the Boy Scouts did a tremendous job making this happen,” said Harding, an Eagle Scout himself.  “A project like this is a magnificent teaching tool, and the scouts can take what they’ve learned back to their communities and help inspire access improvements in other locations across the nation.”

Existing trails had limited surface preparation and were overgrown, which impacted accessibility.
existing overgrown trail

The project encompassed two trail heads, a 300-foot section of trail, an accessible fishing bridge, campsites, picnic areas, parking areas, and routes to a comfort station located in Glade Creek.  The work focused on creating or refurbishing trails and surfaces at parking and picnic and camping areas. Accessible permeable surfaces were achieved using firmly compacted gravel held in place by paving grids.

Trail Section

To resurface trails, paving grids with an integral filter fabric were staked in place.  The fabric backing inhibits plant growth but allows drainage.

workers and scouts unroll paving grids with integral filter fabric Workers and scouts stake paving grid in place along trail

Once the paving grids were in place, the scouts formed bucket brigades to move gravel to the grid where it was firmly compacted. Excess gravel was swept or raked off. The forms keep the gravel in place to create a firm and stable surface and minimize maintenance and erosion.

scouts form bucket brigade to move gravel to trail gravel is compacted onto trail paving grid
a person using a wheelchair tries out the resurfaced trail

The resulting surface is firm and stable to support wheeled mobility devices.  Over 300 feet of trail were resurfaced in this manner.

Campsite and Picnic Areas

Like trails, campsites and picnic areas also were overgrown with gravel surfacing that was difficult to traverse using mobility devices (left).  Existing picnic tables that were not wheelchair accessible (right) were replaced by new ones assembled on site.  A campsite and picnic areas were resurfaced for improved accessibility.
overgrown existing campsite inaccessible picnic table at area with loose gravel surface
At these locations, a similar surfacing technique was used but with a different type of paving grid.  This one featured 4' by 4' grids that snap together.  Gravel was then poured over the grid and compacted.  The new surface treatment did not extend to tent pad areas so that the ground there would remain suitable for staking tent pegs.
scouts and NPS staff lay paving grids in campsite area scouts pour gravel from buckets over campsite paving grids
The difference is noticeable in paths as they existed (left) and after they were resurfaced (right).
before photo of existing path to campsite with loose gravel after photo of resurfaced path with compacted gravel
Bill Botten of the Access Board, who uses a wheelchair, travels a resurfaced route to an accesible comfort station Bill Botten tries out a resurfaced route that connects an accessible comfort station to the camping area.

Fishing Bridge

A former railroad bridge now serves hikers and fishers alike.  It was widened and refurbished as part of the project.  New railings were built with lowered portions to create accessible fishing and viewing locations.
pedestrian bridge avaialble for fishing that was once a railroad bridge scout using wheelchair at railing with lower portion for accessible viewing and fishing


The project also included van accessible parking spaces in parking areas at trailheads and picnic and camping areas.  The scouts created the accessible spaces by clearing and compacting the ground and installing concrete turf blocks that can withstand the weight of vehicles.
scouts move turb blocks to parking area scouts lay turf blocks into place
Gravel was installed and brushed in and compacted to form an accessible surface suitable for vehicle traffic.
gravel is poured and swept into hollows of turf blocks completed accessible parking space of gravel held in place by turf blocks

The Results

Scouts were able to try out the finished product for themselves.
scout using wheelchair at a project site

J.R. Harding, an Eagle Scout and former member of the Access Board, made the rounds to each project site to check out the work and to speak with the scouts.

“The opportunity to engage the scouts on accessibility and outdoor recreation was a true highlight for me,” noted Harding.  “I really enjoyed sharing stories, hearing their take on the project, and learning about the experiences scouts, including those with disabilities, have had.”

JR Harding meets with boy scouts on a project site JR Harding in conversation with a boy scout with prothetic feet
Over 300 scouts participated in the project.
group photo of boy scouts involved in project
Bill Botten, J.R. Harding, Ed.D., and Trish Kicklighter, NPS Superintendent of the New River Gorge National River

Bill Botten (l) and J.R. Harding, Ed.D. (r)
with Trish Kicklighter, NPS Superintendent of the New River Gorge National River (c).

For further information on accessible outdoor environments or Boy Scout programs, contact:
National Park Service logo Richard W. Segars
Historical Architect, National Park Service
New River Gorge National River
Gauley River National Recreation Area
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Access Board seal Bill Botten
Accessibility Specialist
U.S. Access Board
(202) 272-0014, TTY: (202) 272-0073
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Boy Scouts of America logo Boy Scouts of America