July 12, 2005.
SAN FRANCISCO -- California will repair and remodel its 270 parks to settle a class action lawsuit charging the nation's largest state park system has inadequate access and services for disabled visitors.
The changes, to be implemented during the next 11 years, could cost the state more than $100 million, officials said Tuesday in announcing the settlement. The improvements will ensure disabled access to a state park system that serves roughly 80 million visitors annually.
"With this settlement, California is on its way to having the most accessible park system in the country," said Laurence Paradis, executive director of Disability Rights Advocates, an Oakland law firm that represented the plaintiffs.
Virtually every state park in California could be changed by the decision. Trail access will be improved at Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. Parks providing tours will have to offer them for the blind and hearing impaired and even small state park beaches on the North Coast will have to ensure disabled access.
The settlement resolves two class action lawsuits alleging California state parks denied entry to the disabled because of barriers. The plaintiffs included Californians for Disability Rights and the California Council of the Blind.
As part of the settlement, California, its Department of Parks and Recreation and Department Director Ruth Coleman denied all liability and wrongdoing.
"State Parks is already involved in making significant changes at many park locations and we committed to providing greater access with this settlement plan," Coleman said in a statement. "We are the stewards of some of the most diverse and spectacular resources found anywhere in the world and it is our desire to share those resources with all citizens."
The parks department began improving disabled access at several sites in 2002, and has spent roughly $10 million annually on projects since then, officials said.
Source URL: http://www.thekcrachannel.com/news/4715321/detail.html.
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