RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) – Close to eight million people visited Virginia State Parks in 2021, and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation says it is committed to making them accessible to persons with disabilities.
DCR Deputy Director of Operations Frank Stovall briefed members of the Virginia Disability Commission during their meeting in Richmond Monday morning.
“We strive to make each of our 41 state parks as barrier free as possible,” Stovall said during his presentation.
New construction, and park renovations meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but Stovall noted the list of needed improvements is long.
“The 7.9 million visitors that we host have an impact on a burdened system,” Stovall said. “We’ve identified over $250 million in unfunded maintenance needs, and an additional $150 million in priority projects.”
Commission members raised the prospect of a bond issue for parks that are important economic drivers for communities across the state.
And they urged the department to keep the focus on improving accessibility for people with impaired mobility and other disabilities.
“We admire your commitment to making at one point every cabin ADA accessible,” said Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington). “I know it will take a while, but that’s the goal.”
Also Monday, members of the commission voted unanimously to support legislation that would remove the word “handicapped” from the state code, and instead refer to “persons with disabilities.”
State lawmakers will consider the proposal during the 2023 session of the General Assembly that begins in January.
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