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Forests With Handrails?
The ADA and Land Preservation
“While nature is not a uniquely suitable setting, it seems to have a peculiar power to stimulate us to reflectiveness by its awesomeness and grandeur, its complexity, the unfamiliarity of untrammeled ecosystems to urban residents, and the absence of distractions. The special additional claim for nature as a setting is that it not only promotes self-understanding, but also an understanding of the world in which we live. Our initial response to nature is often awe and wonderment: trees that have survived for millennia; a profusion of flowers in the seeming sterility of the desert; predator and prey living in equilibrium. These marvels are intriguing, but their appeal is not merely aesthetic. Nature is also a successful model of many things that human communities seek: continuity, stability and sustenance, adaptation, sustained productivity, diversity, and evolutionary change. The frequent observations that natural systems renew themselves without exhaustion of resources, that they thrive on tolerance for diversity, and they resist the arrogance of the conqueror all seem to give confirmation to the intuitions of the contemplative recreationist.”
Part III of the ADA requires that places of public accommodation be made accessible
“No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”
The United States Supreme Court has said that:
There is a “balance between the statutory rights of the handicapped to be integrated into society and the legitimate interests [of the State] ... in preserving the integrity of [a public] program.” The Supreme Court struck that balance by requiring that persons with disabilities be provided “meaningful access” through reasonable accommodations to publically funded benefits or programs without otherwise “fundamentally” or “substantially” altering the underlying benefit or program.
Does the ADA apply to Land Preserves?
The definition of “public accommodations” includes “a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation.”
Private property encumbered by a conservation easement is generally not a place of public accommodation.
So does the ADA apply to trails?
What about other structures on a nature preserve?
The Term “trail” is defined as a route that is designed, constructed, or designated for recreational pedestrian use or provided as a pedestrian alternative to vehicular routes within a transportation system.