Joshua Tree National Park Plans ADA Upgrade

My husband and I were delighted and impressed by Superintendent, David Smith’s response to our visitor comments regarding accessibility at Joshua Tree National Park. Check it out:

Dear Ms. Szabo-Cassella,

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to me about your recent experience at the park. Although I am always grateful to get feedback from visitors, I am especially pleased to hear about problems dealing with accessibility and how we can better serve our visitors.

I have worked on and off at Joshua Tree for the last 20 years. When I became superintendent in 2014, I realized that we were failing to meet the needs of visitors with mobility issues. One of my top priorities is the creation of a Class One paved bike trail that parallels the park’s main travel routes and is separated from traffic. This would provide a safe route for hikers, bikers, and visitors in wheel chairs. A trail like this will be a fairly expensive endeavor and will involve a lot of work with compliance and planning, but it will go a long way to solving many of our accessibility needs. In order to make it affordable, we will need to approach it in segments but I am confident that this is an amenity that will prove extremely helpful to our visitors and something that we can achieve.

Regarding the restrooms, our campground foreman is currently working on a project to deal with the specific issue you raise. My assistant recently completed training on becoming an accessibility coordinator and has been busy reviewing problems with how we are serving visitors with mobility issues. The problem with the restrooms was one of the first issues she identified. She has found a number of other ways we can improve the overall visitor experience. Under her guidance, we are bringing a planning team to the park in two weeks to review our entire existing infrastructure and identify ways that we can improve the situation. The entire management staff in the park will be engaged in this review.

During your next visit, I would encourage you to consider making a trip to the southern portion of the park and seeing the Bajada Trail – the park’s first fully accessible trail. Another option for you is the half mile paved loop trail at the Oasis of Mara here in Twentynine Palms. As you know, the Cap Rock Trail is also accessible and another great option. Finally, I don’t know if you had a chance to use the accessible pull out at Keys View. It is located about a quarter mile before you drive up to Keys View and is fully accessible.

Something interesting that we are working on right now is an effort to make the western half of the Barker Dam Trail accessible to the base of the dam. This will involve the construction of a rock ramp as well as trail hardening. Although there is a fair amount of sand, we plan to mitigate this with a soil stabilizer to make it wheelchair accessible. We are pretty early in the planning stages on this trail, but our trail foreman is committed to providing more opportunities to wheel chair users and we will make this a reality.

As you well know, we still have a long way to go. But please rest assured – I am committed to making a difference and ensuring that all people can enjoy Joshua Tree National Park.

David Smith

Park Superintendent

Making Accessibility Happen

Every national park has a visitor comment form that you can pick up at the guard station or e-mail online.  Sharing your experiences – positive or negative – makes a difference.

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