Field Lessons and Games, Insights and Resources
Part 2 of our series on Accessibility in the outdoors. Read part 1: The Outdoors, a place of … Accessibility?
Anyone who has spent a few nights at Professor Valley Field Camp will testify that it is a magical place. Located along the Colorado River, it is surrounded by public spaces, peppered with leafy cottonwoods, and home to the clear and cold Professor Creek. In the evenings, golden sunsets paint the iconic landscape as the yips and barks of coyotes roll across the open land.
In 2020, the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation awarded a significant grant to CFI. This 2 year grant supports our efforts to grow PVFC into a more inclusive space, giving CFI a chance to share this magic with more students across a broader range of ability levels. The PVFC Accessibility Project was also supported and inspired by the various organizations outlined in Part 1 of this series. These organizations provided us with the invaluable knowledge to cater to the myriad visible and invisible disabilities that are part of our students’ lives.
In 2019 the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation awarded a significant grant to CFI. This 2 year grant supports our efforts to grow PVFC into a more inclusive space, giving CFI a chance to share this magic with more students across a broader range of ability levels. The PVFC Accessibility Project was also supported and inspired by the various organizations outlined in Part 1 of this series. These organizations provided us with the invaluable knowledge to cater to the myriad visible and invisible disabilities that are part of our students’ lives.
The PVFC Accessibility Project:
In 2019, Canyonlands Field Institute engaged MHTN Architects of Salt Lake City to develop a facility master plan that enhances our several locations, including Professor Valley Field Camp, the center of CFI’s outdoor education programming.
Collaborating with Moab Area Travel Council and The Moab and Park City offices of the National Ability Center, CFI began the PVFC Accessibility Project. The overall goals of this project are to make Professor Valley Field Camp more inspiring to diverse audiences by enhancing outdoor teaching spaces, improving site security/safety, developing ADA compliant infrastructure, and nurturing native ecosystems.
The property is owned by the Palladium Foundation and leased long term to CFI. The rustic camp has two yurts, 15 tipis with cots, a metal barn for storage, outdoor kitchen, two restrooms with flush toilets, septic system, an approved cistern public drinking water system and electric power. Professor Creek runs through the property offering rare riparian shade and wildlife habitat in this desert landscape as serene and iconic views framed by the Fisher Towers, La Sal Mountains and Castleton Tower. PVFC is surrounded on two sides by BLM land with a Colorado River boat launch only 15 minutes away.
A Multi Phase Project
When the Professor Valley Field Camp was created in 2014, CFI installed one accessible parking pad near the barn, as well as wheelchair accessible restrooms by the yurts.
Phase 1 began in the fall of 2020, and consisted of improvements on ADA Trails, the Classroom Yurt, and some Tipis.
ADA Trails: Thanks to Terrasophia LLC, we now have an upgraded segment of an ADA trail from the accessible parking pad to Professor Creek, developed from MHTN specifications. The inclined trail is surveyed at 400 linear feet by 4 feet wide. Trail materials include local road base gravel topped by a specialized limestone chip aggregate from a Delta, Utah quarry.
Classroom Yurt and Tipis: Nichols Construction completed the ADA access to the classroom yurt via a bridge and a back deck, both with railings, plus cement pads for two ADA tipis adjacent to the accessible parking area.
Phase 2 started in winter 2021 and continues through the summer of 2022, and features inclusive signage, pathway bridges, outdoor teaching stations, an ADA Bio filtration toilet, native landscaping, and fencing.
ADA Facility Signs & Bridges: Rooted Earth Construction installed ADA facility signs and built small bridges across drainage ditches in the tipi village, building additional supportive pathway infrastructure, where field camp participants predominantly reside during programming.
Treatment & Burning: In January 2022, the State of Utah Forestry, Fire and State Land’s Southeast Utah Wildland Urban Interface Program conducted work on 11 acres of Professor Valley Field Camp. Within the treatment area 100% of the tamarisk and Russian olive has been cut and piled with herbicide treatments on stumps. It was followed-up by burning of slash piles from invasive tree cuttings. This work was coordinated by the Moab-based office and funded by the interagency Watershed Restoration Initiative as an in-kind contribution to the project.
Teaching Stations: Two teaching stations were constructed in Spring 2022, an outdoor classroom deck, and a shaded pavilion.
Outdoor Classroom Deck: This south end location of Field Camp near the ADA parking pad was converted from a “swale” to an Outdoor Classroom. This 12 x 16 uncovered deck platform, railing, ADA ramp, and ADA access trail connects the teaching yurt to the Community Campfire Circle.
Pavilion: One roofed steel shelter was installed on the north end, between the bus parking lot and tipi village, providing covering for various weather conditions. This will double as a greeting and departure venue. A limestone chip trail connecting the pavilion location to the bus parking lot was completed just recently.
Bio Filtration Toilet: One commercial grade ADA Bio filtration toilet was recently installed in a remote spot on the north end of the Field Camp by Soltronics. This installation was overseen by S.E. Utah Health Department.
Native Landscaping: The area’s landscaping was completed by Terrasophia with the removal of invasive trees and weeds, rock work terracing, the upgrading of the irrigation system, as well as integrating rain garden basins with native plants.
Fencing: A cedar rail security fence was constructed by Castle Rock Property Management between the tipi village and creek. This fencing infrastructure provides a protective barrier to help keep students from wandering over a very steep bank.
Upcoming Projects: We aren’t done yet! Benches, some with ADA modifications, will be added to the outdoor classroom deck to seat 15, and also added to the existing campfire circle to accommodate the full camp capacity of 60 people. Additionally, we plan to add rope handrails to sections of the ADA trail.
How can you get involved?
There are tons of ways to be a part of our community as we continue to advocate for, develop, and improve accessibility for people with disabilities in CFI’s outdoor educational programming.
Community Is Key
Without the following community partners, this project would not have been possible. Thank you!
Utah Outdoor Recreation Grant
Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation
George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation
Hands on the Lands – Bureau of Land Management
Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA
Union Pacific Foundation
Utah Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands
William H. and Mattie Wattis Harris Foundation
Individual and Business Sponsors
It takes a community to make change! We are also thankful to the CFI personnel, volunteers, and AmeriCorps Service members who have given their time, skills, and labor to ensure we continue to grow a sustainable community of health here at PVFC
Author Spotlight: Sara Hinck
Growing up in the Bay Area of Northern California, the outdoors were an integral part of Sara’s upbringing, and through her personal experience she has seen the transformative and educational power of engaging with nature. While looking to interweave her passion for the outdoors, health equity, youth development, and service, she found herself being called back to Moab. Sara has been serving as the DEI Marketing & Fundraising Coordinator AmeriCorps Vista with CFI since January ’22. Her vision is to aid in developing more accessible pathways for diverse populations to find belonging and connectivity in natural spaces within the Colorado Plateau on their own terms.