Getting around at the Raptor Center

The Raptor Trail is a legacy trail system begun in 1984 that has grown up organically adjacent to the hospital facility at Carolina Raptor Center and designed for public viewing of the resident bird collection. Originally covered with mulch, the trail system has evolved over the years to a hard packed surface that is more friendly to wheelchairs than the original version. Erosion prevention timbers and frequent erosion, however, make the trail inaccessible for most powered or electric wheelchairs. The Edna S. Moretti Environmental Education was built in 1991 before ADA Standards were in place. Accommodations have been made to ensure access into and out of the Visitor Center as well as the Visitor Center restrooms. The second floor classroom, used for summer camp and during inclement weather, is not considered accessible. 

Carolina Raptor Center takes accessibility very seriously as we want to be able to connect all humans to the natural world through programs and experiences in our facility, in onsite classrooms and on our Raptor Trail. Toward that end, CRC has entered into a partnership with Mecklenburg County to build a new facility and associated trail system that will meet the appropriate ADA Standards. The Quest Adventure Center is scheduled to break ground in early fall 2017 with a completion date of spring 2020.  

About the ADA and Requirements for Buildings and Trails
Created to ensure equal rights to people with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, notes The Center for an Accessible Society. Like other civil rights laws, the ADA helps to ensure people with disabilities have equal opportunities to seek employment, purchase goods and participate in society without exclusion. 

The design standards issued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation are used to ensure access to the built environment for people with disabilities. The ADA Standards apply nationwide, in addition to any applicable state or local codes, where facilities are newly built or altered. The ADA Standards apply to new construction, alterations, and additions. Most facilities in the public and private sectors are covered by the ADA.Both DOJ’s and DOT’s ADA Standards are based on minimum accessibility guidelines adopted by the Access Board in 2004, known as the ADA Accessibility Guidelines. As a result, these two sets of standards are very similar for the most part. However, each contains additional requirements that are specific to the facilities covered by the respective agencies. 

On September 26, 2013, the U.S. Access Board issued new accessibility guidelines for outdoor areas on federal lands. The guidelines provide detailed specifications for accessible trails, picnic and camping areas, viewing areas, beach access routes, and other components of outdoor developed areas when newly built or altered. They also provide exceptions for situations where terrain and other factors make compliance impracticable.

Requirements for trails and pedestrian access routes address surface characteristics, width, grade, and cross slope. Exceptions are included for these and other provisions under certain conditions stipulated in the guidelines. Departures are allowed where compliance is not practicable because of terrain or prevailing construction practices. Exceptions are also recognized where compliance would conflict with mandates such as the Endangered Species Act and other laws or where it would fundamentally alter a site’s function or purpose. 

Under this rulemaking, the Access Board is first developing guidelines under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) for outdoor developed areas managed by the federal government. Guidelines for non-federal sites covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be developed separately at a later date. The Federal guidelines originate from recommendations prepared by the Outdoor Developed Areas Regulatory Negotiation Committee, an advisory panel chartered by the Access Board, of which American Trails was a member.