Living in Portland, I feel fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty and to have great hiking and outdoor resources all around me. But as a wheelchair user, I also feel frustration. Where’s the information I need to access these hiking opportunities?
My belief is that there are actually many trails here in The Intertwine that could be used by people with disabilities. What is lacking is the data needed to enable informed decisions.
With the right information (a simple and empowering concept) people could make their own determinations – and avoid the frustration of visiting an outdoor site only to discover that it is unusable, perhaps for the most inconsequential reason.
Several years ago, I decided to improve that situation and convened a team that included representatives from federal, state and local parks agencies to develop common standards for providing information that would better inform people with disabilities and thereby people of all abilities. Access Recreation (AR) was born.
Starting in 2009, the new committee drew from our collective experience to develop AR’s Guidelines for Providing Trail Information to People with Disabilities.
Driving our effort was the expectation that public agencies in the region would strive for a common standard of trail description and information sharing. A grant in 2011 from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department made it possible to further develop these Guidelines and publish them as a web-based document.
Now, AR is working to apply the Guidelines’ principles to create a Regional Online Trail Map. This map will place photos, videos and descriptions of significant features along trails that are mapped using simple smart-phone technology.
Our hope is that people of all abilities will be able to find this map through our partner websites as well as on AR's own website. With the information provided by these individual trail maps, hikers of all ability levels will be able to choose a trail ahead of time that matches their desired recreation experience.
The Trail Map is being supported by a generous Nature in Neighborhoods grant from Metro, and initially will cover only the Metro region. Map data will become available to the public incrementally, as 24 or more selected trails are mapped over the next two years. Half of these trails will feature videos as well as photos.
Eventually, we intend this Online Trail Map to encompass the entire Pacific Northwest, and perhaps even places of interest across the globe.
Follow Access Recreation for more information on this ambitious project, our progress, and links to the individual trail maps as they are developed. We’ll see you on the trail!