Friends of the Black Butte Trail


Accessibility issues for the proposed Black Butte Trail

Construction of recreational facilities, like trails, by or on behalf of the Federal government on Federal land is governed by standards developed under the Architectural Barriers Act, specifically a new Chapter 10 of the Final Standards. Section 1017 covers trails. Normally the entire trail should meet these standards but exceptions are allowed on parts of a trail where terrain or other factors would make compliance impracticable.

The standards require a firm and stable surface that is not affected by weather and normal wear and tear. The minimum tread width required is only 3 feet, although 5 foot sections are required for passing. The proposed Black Butte Trail is 10 feet, consistent with usual guidelines for paved trails – because 10 feet is needed to minimize user conflicts and facilitate 2 users passing in opposite directions.

The standards specify that the running slope of trails should normally be 5% or less, but may exceed that for short distances (for example, a trail may have a 5-8.33% slope for 200 feet, and even a 10-12 % slope for 10 feet). For comparison, the Alternative 3 alignment of the proposed Black Butte Trail was laid out not to exceed 3 percent, except in a few cases where it may reach 5 percent. It clearly meets the governing standards. To get a sense of the allowed steepness, the maximum slope on the Peterson Ridge Hill on Route 16 south of Sisters is about 8 percent; the average slope of 242 above the snow gate is roughly 5 percent.

The standards allow a cross-slope of up to just over 2% to permit drainage, even though guidelines usually followed by transportation agencies (see below) limit cross slope to 1 percent or less, which is better for wheelchairs. The Forest Service originally proposed following the transportation agency guidelines for a gentler cross slope.

Finally, the standards require signage indicating length of the trail, surface, tread width, and maximum and typical running and cross slopes.

There are other specific construction requirements (like gaps in a board walk) that would be taken into account as a matter of course in any normal contract.

The US Access Board, an independent Federal agency established in 1973 under the Architectural Barriers Act, comprising both Federal officials and appointed members of the public, most of whom must have a disability, is responsible for developing and updating design guidelines known as the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). Where the trail enters public rights of way that are not on Federal land, it will be governed by guidelines (not regulations) developed by the Access Board. These establish the guidelines for curb cuts and similar accessibility amenities, as well as trails not on Federal land. In addition, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have also established guidelines for trails in public rights of way, which are similar to those established by the Access Board. Compare Access Board and AASHTO guidelines. In every case, AASHTO guidelines match or exceed those developed by the Access Board.

From a legal perspective, this trail will be built to existing standards. From a human perspective, this trail is meant to accommodate a wide range of users, including those with a variety of disabilities. Experience will dictate what additional accommodations may be warranted, even if not mandated by regulations. At the moment, the single most important element sought by the disabled persons we have discussed this with is the need for a paved surface.


Discovery Trail, Long Beach Peninsula, WA. A raised boardwalk or similar structure, as seen above, is planned to mitigate impacts to a pine/aspen wet area to allow the free flow of water in the wet area near Black Butte Ranch.


Handicapped individuals should be allowed to challenge themselves and explore the out-of-doors. These wheelchair racers do not take no for an answer as they race 267 miles between Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska over a six day period. Their race is an annually event.



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