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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

Retrofitting an Accessible Whitewater Park


After the City of Reno Parks and Recreation Department built a whitewater course throughout the city it realized that barriers existed for people with disabilities. Consequently, the course was retrofitted to accommodate people with disabilities, resulting in a universally designed park, the first of its kind. The design process and barrier elimination were incremental aspects of this whitewater park, as there were no resources to review, no specifications from the Americans with Disabilities Act (http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/) or Access Board (www.access-board.gov/), and no Best Practices to consult. This design has now set the precedent for future designs. The following paper was written to share the process and increase awareness of issues that may need to be addressed when planning similar parks and facilities.



In 2004, the City of Reno designed and built the Truckee River Whitewater Park at Wingfield Park in downtown Reno, Nevada. Designed in part by a coalition of community interests, the park was intended to be a multi-use facility for water activities such as kayaking, rafting, and tubing.



The original design concepts did include public access to the park but not an accessible ingress (an entrance) and egress (an exit). The park was considered 'new' construction, and the City of Reno is classified as a Title II entity as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (http://ada.gov/). Title II of the ADA refers to the laws governing programmatic access by a unit of state or local government. The City concluded it had a responsibility to retrofit the park and provide access. However, research demonstrated very little precedent for access to similarly designed parks in other areas. Even with the standards set forth by the Access Board on recreation facilities, within the Access Board’s ADA Accessible Guidelines’ (ADAAG) final rules on play areas (http://www.access-board.gov/play/finalrule.htm), or even the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas, Final Report (http://www.access-board.gov/outdoor/outdoor-rec-rpt.ht), the City’s design team could not find exact design standards that met the unique criteria and challenges of this park.




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