Ventura's Kenney Grove Regional Park to be Accessible by 2025
After months of social distancing and sheltering at home, it is time to get back outdoors! Studies have shown that spending time outside is one of the easiest ways to improve your mental health and well-being. Sadly, many local and regional parks are not accessible to people with mobility disabilities, making recreational time spent with families and friends stressful, frustrating and oftentimes dangerous.
Some of the more satisfying cases I have litigated over the last few years have involved local parks. Recently, I settled a case with the County of Ventura involving the Kenney Grove Regional Park. Kenney Grove is a 15-acre park surrounded by orchards and nestled among several thousand years old oak trees just outside of Fillmore, California. The Park provides members of the public with spectacular views, an amphitheater, barbecue pits and picnic sites, camping areas, restrooms and showers.
Unfortunately, Kenney Grove is also completely inaccessible to people with mobility disabilities. Among other things:
There is no designated accessible parking provided. Not one space.
None of the picnic and barbecue areas are on an accessible route. In order to reach these areas an individual must navigate loose and uneven terrain. Additionally, the seating areas provided are not accessible to wheelchair users.
The amphitheater is only reachable by climbing steps, and provides no accessible seating areas.
None of the restrooms or shower facilities are accessible to people with mobility disabilities. In fact, the facilities cannot even be reached by wheelchair users because of the uneven and inaccessible terrain upon which they are sited, without an accessible route to the entrance.
Despite substantial evidence of glaring physical barriers at the Park, efforts to resolve the accessibility issues at Kenney Grove outside of the context of litigation were unsuccessful. The County did not believe it was liable for the condition of the Park because it had only recently reclaimed possession of the facilities. In the 30 years prior, the Park had been managed by a private third-party lessee. The County failed to appreciate that under both state and federal anti-discrimination laws, it was responsible for the Park’s facilities even while those facilities were under lease. A lawsuit was eventually filed.
After months of negotiation, the parties reached a settlement providing for substantial renovations at the Park to be completed by no later than November 2025. That agreement is currently being implemented, with retained Court jurisdiction. When the dust settles, individuals with mobility disabilities and their families will be able to fully and equally use and enjoy the facilities of Kenney Grove, including the parking, camping areas, amphitheater, playgrounds, ball fields, barbeque and picnic areas, restrooms and showers.