ADA compliance stymies campground progress

Kaua‘i County Council members Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and Tim Bynum are crossing swords over whether three campsites at Lydgate Park comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Because the county failed to consult with the county’s ADA coordinator, Christina Pilkington, and the Mayor’s Advisory Committee for Equal Access, the potential use of the campsites has been left in limbo indefinitely.

“I spoke with Christina, and the administration had not consulted with her before it built the campsites,” Iseri-Carvalho said yesterday.

Had Public Works official Doug Haigh and Bynum, both of whom have either worked on the project or supported it, properly followed ADA requirements, the county would not be looking to tear down the structures for non-compliance with the federal law, she said.

The county has only looked at a recommendation from Pilkington to do that, but has no plans to dismantle them at this time.

Bynum, who says positive progress is being made on the matter, disagrees with Iseri-Carvalho’s assessment.

He said the campsites are like the ADA campsites found in national parks, that their design was not dictated by any legal requirements, only guidelines, and that the county administration has consulted twice with the mayor’s advisory group on the matter in recent times.

“At Lydgate, we always want to be the model of acceptability, and so we always attempt to go beyond the minimum requirements at Kamalani,” Bynum said. “The MACFEA group is the group we want to listen to.”

At issue is whether the county complied with ADA requirements, and if not there could be fines by the federal government. Non-compliance with the law also could hurt the county’s borrowing power for federal funds for projects, Iseri-Carvalho said.

The issue will be discussed during a MACFEA meeting scheduled for April 17. The group may present recommendations following a March 28 site visit to the park.

The Kaua‘i County Council is likely to take up the matter during a meeting at the historic County Building the following day.

The council has asked the administration to give an update on the first proposed fee-based campground on Kaua‘i — to be located at Lydgate Park.

The campground project, which is already developed, includes the three ADA sites, 28 other campsites, some camp pads, picnic tables and structures for barbecues.

The campground project was part of a master plan Merle Grimes, a Denver-based county consultant, developed for Lydgate Park.

In a memo sent to Bernard Carvalho, the new director of the county Department of Parks and Recreation, Pilkington recommended, among other things: removing the existing camping platforms; redesigning one platform with materials that can stand up to Hawai‘i’s beach environment; having the advisory group review the design of the structure; and having the county follow the state law ensuring ADA compliance.

She also said she would discourage rebuilding the existing platforms.

“The platform structures have proven to be a disaster without (day users) using them,” she states in the memo.

She said if the county decides to rebuild the platforms, the county should build only one.

“After hearing testimony from MACFEA members with mobility challenges, it was clear not every camper with a disability would benefit from a transfer ledge (or a ramp).” Pilkington wrote. “A platform pad is not required to provide accessible camping.”

Flat campsites will work, but raised platforms also might provide a “great experience” for tourists and local campers, Pilkington continued.

But one high-ranking county official, who asked not to be identified, said her recommendations may have been made without a precise interpretation of the ADA law.

But as example of how the county administration has listened, it removed one of the platforms and made the campsite “flat,” as Pilkington had suggested, Bynum said.

The platforms were raised 18 inches off the ground — the same height as the seat of a wheelchair, Bynum said. That way, a person in a wheelchair could “slide” onto the soft-sand platform and into a tent, he said.

But the idea of three raised platforms didn’t sit well with the advisory group in 2004.

While the group commended Public Works and the Building Division of that department for designing structures for the physically challenged, it said at the time, that it became more aware of the challenges raised platforms posed to people with different types of disabilities.

The group recommended the county remove one of the platforms or build another accessible campsite with a flat surface at ground level, said Glenn Morgan, MACFEA committee chair at the time, and Pilkington said in a June 2004 letter to Mayor Bryan Baptiste.

And that is what happened, as a county crew subsequently took one platform away, Bynum said.

During a May 2004 meeting of the advisory group, Haigh said it was “not unreasonable” to modify one of the accessible campsites by removing the platform.

He said the advisory committee will decide which tent platform the county should level.

But Iseri-Carvalho said the controversy of whether the structures are in compliance with the ADA law would have been a moot point had the administration consulted Pilkington in the first place.

“She was hired to ensure a consent decree was complied with by the county, and all the county projects were to go through her,” she said.

Federal, state and county laws require that the design of all government projects involving the ADA law must be reviewed by Pilkington, the advisory group and the Disability and Communication Access Board, Iseri-Carvalho said.

If government has not been cooperative in the past, it will be in the future, she said.

“During budget meetings (last) Thursday, I got Bernard’s commitment that all government projects will be reviewed by the ADA coordinator, MACFEA and DACAB.” Iseri-Carvalho said.

Unless that condition is met, she said she will not support any funding proposal for new structures.

In a Public Works memo, County Engineer Donald Fujimoto said the county’s share to build the three ADA platforms came out to $8,000.

Had the county administration followed the proper process “we would not be incurring that $8,000 cost. We wouldn’t be wasteful,” she said.

Bynum said the issue has become overblown.

“There was no requirement to build the campsites, but there were guidelines,” he said. “We wanted to meet those guidelines, accommodate the people.”

He said the guidelines are the same ones that have been used to build ADA campsites at national parks.

“Mr. Grimes was trying to be pro-active and propose something that was above and beyond what was required,” Bynum said. “He is a professional.”

Thomas Noyes is the general coordinator for Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park, the organization that developed the park’s master plan calling for the ADA campsites.

He said his group is working with MACFEA members and Pilkington to “assure that the camping facilities at Lydgate Park comply with published guidelines and recommendations for accessible camping.”

He said he believes the design of the structures was based on “sound research and successful installations at other parks.”

As the head of the new Parks and Recreation Department, Carvalho said he wants to make things right, and plans to attend the April 17 MACFEA meeting and meet with Iseri-Carvalho and councilman Mel Rapozo to hear their concerns.

“We will go over some of the issues we have and get the results of the (March 28 campsite) MACFAE visit and bridge the whole project regarding this issue,” he said.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or


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