If you attended the 2015 Apple Butter Festival this year in Berkeley Springs (Morgan County), West Virginia and have mobility issues, you may not of had a very pleasant experience. We want to raise awareness and gather support in our efforts to improve next year's festival for more handicapped-friendly services and facilities. If you have ever worked for or cared for an elderly person(s), you know how not having these facilities can be an undue burden.
Since the venue for the festival is new construction each year, you would think that ADA compliance would be mandatory however we are told that may not be the case. Find out more below.
Our Events Should Include People With Disabilities
-- M. Rhodes
The way ordinances have been written in our area, the maintenance of walkways are the responsibility of property owners. Although many of these walkways are in need of repair and it does not appear that anyone is inspecting them, overall it would not be so much trouble until you factor in events like this festival which causes congestion and wear. The booths in the walkways are not permanent, year-round structures; they should require a permit which may help pay for some of the compliance issues. The ADA requires that all new facilities built by public entities must be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.
The organizers of the festival pick the venue and they are the ones who should be making sure that we are as compliant as possible as per West Virginia law. According to the last town council meeting it is estimated that approximately 300,000 people come to this area annually, generating millions of dollars in revenue and yet we have no fairgrounds to hold these types of events.
In order to attend the 2015 Apple Butter Festival, some people are parking on the shoulder's of Highway 522 which has no walkways at all. Parking along that roadway was miles long. Due to the heavy traffic that is produced from this event, a trolley is provided from US Silica to the main venue which is at the Berkeley Springs State Park. There is only one trolley. The wait time is approximately 40 minutes between trips. There is a line and no area to sit while waiting if you needed it and the trolley does not have wheelchair access.
When you are arrive at the drop-off location, it is extremely crowded with booths in the walkways, outdoor planters and large sidewalk signs up and down the main street. People who stop to look at the crafts in the booths also stop foot traffic. In some areas there is not enough room to walk on the sidewalk and so most make their way through the street which is not blocked off. As you make your way toward Berkeley Springs State Park, there is more and more congestion. The parking for the stores is full of more booths which would have been the handicapped parking for the stores around the park.
This is a state park and yet some of the steps leading up to areas are deteriorated and crooked. I watched several elderly people trying to negotiate these steps and almost falling (at least 6 people). The state should be helping with this problem. It's really too bad that our handicapped and elderly visitors and citizens can not attend this event without compromising their safety as handmade and unique arts and crafts are exactly what these citizens enjoy looking at and purchasing.
In this writer's opinion the festival has clearly out grown this venue and should be relocated to a fairgrounds or some other area with ample parking, walkways and facilities or the entire area should be closed to vehicular traffic to make room for the heavy foot traffic. There needs to be improvements made for organization of next year's event. In order to provide a safe venue for all our residents and visitors, we can't allow the organizers of this event or our town leaders to be dismissive about these issues. The business owner's should not be solely responsible for compliance when they are not necessarily the ones creating the problem. We are told that they just want to be able to open their doors rather than relocate to a booth at a fairgrounds. What about the safety of your patrons? It's only a two-day event. What about the fact that more people may be able to attend and the event may be able to go on for a longer period of time with a more permanent venue?
We spoke with the Director of the office for the enforcement of the American's With Disabilities Act (ADA) in our area who provided us with the information that we needed in order to take action as concerned citizens. These actions can be taken against festival organizers so we certainly hope they don't delay in getting the ball rolling.
See also: Who Has Responsibilities under the ADA?
For filing a complaint:Call Marion Vessels at 301-217-0124. We are told this organization will help you with the paperwork. Also, you may want to try the U.S. Department of Civil Rights at 202-514-4609. Thank you to Kim Nuckles from the Offices of the State of West Virginia. We are also encouraging you to write your elected officials. Links to their sites can be found HERE and also since the site of the festival is at the Berkeley Springs State Park, we encourage you to write West Virginia Parks and Recreation. They own the park. Their email is email@example.com
CLICK HERE To request a copy of the 2009 Parking Study by Desman Associates for Town of Bath. Be sure to tell us what you think of the improvements they've made since this study was written. We'd love to hear from you.Sign Our Petition