Tomorrow morning I will be heading to Yosemite National Park (YOSE) for two weeks of field work. Posts will resume when I return in August.
I was out on a run the other morning on one of the local multi-use trails in town and I passed a woman on a Segway! That was the first time that I had seen a Segway on a “hiking” trail. The trail I was running is well maintained for about the first 1.5 miles but it is definitely not paved. Although, it is smooth enough and flat enough that strollers are frequently on the trail. I was a bit surprised and somewhat taken aback by seeing a motor driven device on a trail that I thought was solely for pedestrians and mountain bikes. My first thought was “Are Segways even allowed on forest service trails?”
I know that motorized use is allowed outside wilderness areas on Forest Service land but I wanted to know more about Segways in public land. So, I came home and did a little bit of research and did not find very much on the legality of Segways on hiking trails at all (I checked the websites of multiple agencies). The little bit of information that I did find, published by American Trails and dated the spring of this year, said that the Department of Justice states that “power-driven mobility devices” can be used on trails by “individuals with mobility disabilities.” Power-driven mobility device is defined as anything with a motor that can be driven – so Segways definitely fall into that category. Based on the Department of Justice ruling, any individual with a mobility related disability would be able to use a Segway to access trails on public lands especially those which are already considered accessible to wheelchairs.
Earlier this week the National Park Conservation Association (NPCA) released a report outlining their findings from a 10 year study on the state of national park service lands in the United States. In 2000, the NCPA’s Center for Park Research started examining the conditions of both natural and culture resources in 80 of the 394 “parks” in the NPS system. I put parks in quotations because the NCPA did not just examine national parks (which have the highest level of protection in the National Park Service system) but also looked at the conditions in national historic sites, national battlefields, and even parts of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The study looked at not only large, highly visited parks such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Zion, and Shenandoah but also smaller, less visited parks like Capital Reef and Isle Royale.
The part of the study examining natural resources was conducted by using NPCA created evaluations, NPS databases, reports and studies from NPS or provided to NPS by outside researchers, interviews with park staff, and on-site park visits. Specifically, the Center for Park Research examined the extent and function of park ecosystems, the composition and condition of native flora and fauna, the factors that are influencing native flora and fauna populations, and environmental factors (such as water and air quality). The parks were then given a rating based on the condition of their natural resources: critical, poor, fair, good, or excellent. When examining cultural resources, the NPCA used park guidelines which examine the condition of resources, historical collections, ethnography, historical structures, and historical research. The same rating system was used for the cultural resources.