Disabled Equestrians Organization
231 Glenwood Ave
Woodside, Calif. 94062
Sept 5, 2002
California State Parks
Northern Service Center
ATTN: Gudrun Baxter, Project Manager
One Capitol Mall Ste 500
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Donner Memorial State Park General Plan/ Draft EIR
Comments due in writing by September 20, 2002
Dear Ms. Baxter:
The Disabled Equestrians Organization (DEO) represents individuals that are moderately disabled and use a horse or mule to provide them access to trails in the outdoors. The causes of their disabilities are varied, and include accidents, old age and disease. Some of the areas affected are knees, lungs, hearts, backs, ankles and eyesight. In spite of the diversity of aliments, they all share a common solution to their disabilities: they use a horse or mule to carry their worn out bodies to the places that millions of Americans enjoy: the beautiful high country of the Sierras, the rolling hills of the California coast, and many other public parks and forests.
The DEO is very concerned about Federal, State and Local agencies that are restricting, limiting or reducing the use of horses on the public trails they manage. There appears to be a concerted effort by some people who seem to think such restrictions are somehow good for the environment. We disagree with this conclusion, but the issue we are concerned about is far more important.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336 enacted July 26, 1990 and the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II, subtitle A, of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all services, programs, and activities provided to the public by Federal, State and local governments. A disability as defined by ADA is a “ physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual”. To watch the roar of the falls in Yosemite, see the snow-capped peaks of the high Sierras, listen to the wind rustling in the aspens, these are truly a major life activity.
The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 requires all buildings and facilities built or renovated with Federal funds be accessible to and usable to physically disabled persons. This law forms the foundation of the legal mandate requiring Federally funded facilities and programs to be accessible to and usable by physically disabled persons.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1978 states "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity conducted by Federal financial assistance or by an Executive Agency." This Act further broadens the Architectural Barriers Act in that it requires program accessibility in all services provided with Federal dollars.
To deny disabled horsemen the right to use their horse to access the public trails is a clearly a violation of Federal law and results in discrimination against disabled equestrians. The closures are reducing opportunities for disabled equestrians to access the backcountry. It is essential that disabled equestrians have a place to park their trailer to unload their horse, a place for their horse to spend the night, and the permission to ride on the trails.
We do not want to see our funds and public funds spend on a lawsuit to enforce our rights. We would rather work with the public agencies to improve the trails, raise funds for outdoor programs, expand horse camps, and raise public awareness. But if we are denied our rights, a lawsuit will be our only recourse.
Now that we have established our role, there are several concerns regarding the Donner Memorial State Park General Plan/ Draft EIR
In a recent meeting between equestrians and Mr. Karl Knapp on the Road and Trail Plan portion of the Draft Plan, positive information was exchanged on equestrian needs for horses accessing the Coldstream Canyon. It became apparent, however, that the Draft Plan and EIR were not sufficiently specific in a number of areas of interest to horsemen. The following is a request to assure that the Final version of the Plan and EIR be amended to reflect specific needs of the equestrian community.
While page 92 discusses the intent to “design group camps” no provision has been made specifically for inclusion of a Horse Camp. With Mr. Knapp’s assistance we have identified the Lower Teichert Pond Area as the best possible location for such a camp. The camp should be on relatively flat land, in the forest, have both potable water and livestock water, and adequate unpaved pads for long rig parking (up to 56 feet) with easy ingress and egress. The Skillman Group Camp 15 miles down Highway 20 has been suggested as a desirable template. Please look to the horsemen to cost share or donate trail signs, troughs, picnic tables, hitch racks and corrals for such a horse camp.
A horse camp in this location will provide a missing capability between the Robey Horse Camp and the Euer Valley/Jackson Meadows on the S-N axis of the Pacific Crest Trail, and between Lonely Meadows/ Kingvale and Davies Creek on the W-E axis.
We strongly support the intention of the plan expressed on page 90 to “provide more loop trails, staging areas, and backcountry trail experiences”. However, it is unclear whether provision will be made specifically for adequate day parking for equestrian rigs. Again many of these rigs are long, requiring large turning radii. We prefer unpaved surfaces. If the Teichert gravel storage area becomes available (about a quarter mile inside the gate near the 76 Station or other similar location) this would be an ideal spot to stage rigs from. Such parking facilities could double as emergency staging areas, when needed.
We endorse the intent of the plan to provide LINKAGE to planned and existing trails such as the PCT, Truckee Town Trails, Donner Rim Trail, Place General Plan trails, etc. We are gratified to have worked with Mr. Knapp to identify our needs for a number of loop trails in the area of differing lengths and an adequate rig day- parking area. Please refer to the needs expressed to Mr. Knapp in our meeting of September 2 that include equestrian access:
Emigrant Canyon/ Coldstream Pass in the saddle between Mts. Judah and Donner Lakeview Canyon
Ridge route on the Schallenberger to complete the Donner Lake Rim Trail Smaller loop routes in the valley floor
Horsemen have been instrumental in providing significant donations to the Truckee Donner Land Trust that have helped make the Schallenberger Ridge available to the State. We would feel more comfortable if the final Plan document more specifically recognized right of access of disabled equestrians, and thus ask you for inclusion/clarification of the issues listed above in.
We understand that this planning process is long and will involve other potential opportunities to provide input and/or attend workshops. Please place my contact information on your notification list for future actions.
We appreciate your consideration of this request and look forward to working with you to make the Coldstream Canyon into a wonderful recreation area for disabled equestrians.
Please keep us informed of your progress in insuring this plan will comply with Federal Law.
Donald E. Pugh