Access North-Opening Up the Outdoors to All
Video promotes places where all can enjoy the outdoors
Prince George, B.C. – Spinal Chord Injury BC-Access North has spent a little over a year and a half auditing recreational sites and trails throughout the region, all in an effort to make those places accessible to those with mobility challenges.“Certain places in our Province won’t be accessible” says Nancy Harris of Spinal Chord Injury BC- Access North. “We are trying to make places as accessible as possible for as many people as possible.” The Ancient Forest, east of Prince George is an example. Those using wheelchairs or walkers can enjoy the boardwalk, and much more of the park is accessible for seniors.
Nancy Harris says in many instances at recreation sites, some very simple fixes can improve accessibility “In a lot of B.C. Parks. it was simple things, like changing latches on their doors. There were common themes that started showing up( during the audit) like rec sites and trails, if they have a reasonably flat camping ground, an accessible outhouse, and an accessible path between those two areas hundreds of rec site will open up in B.C.”
While costs for upgrades to improve accessibility were not part of the audit, she says some of the fixes can be dealt with in regular maintenance budgets. “Once they know what needs to be changed, then they can set their priorities when it comes to funding and grant writing.”
Pat Harris, who is wheelchair bound, says the best example of an accessible outdoor site in the Prince George region is the accessible trail on Tabor Mountain. The trail’s wheelchair accessible ramp is more than 450 metres in length and includes three bridges, 2 culverts, 2 kiosk signs and 6 interpretive sign posts all in the area of the Dougherty Creek Campsite. “They have done a fantastic job there” says Pat “They have installed an accessible washroom there, and all of the trails are firm packed surface, so they’re pretty good for wheelchairs, or walkers or baby buggies and strollers” He says the gradients, of 1 or 2% are also very good.
Pat Harris says the audit has been welcomed by all site operators “Everybody has been very supportive of this project. As a matter of fact, once we’ve gone in and done the audits, the park staffers are saying ‘wow, this is really good, we didn’t realize, that little bump thee, or that little lip on that toilet wasn’t very good’. ” He says the audits have encouraged many to want to learn more about accessibility and universal design. “So what has dove tailed off the audits we’ve been doing is education. So we’ve designed a universal design and accessibility workshop. So we’ve been delivering workshops to BC Parks staffers, rec sites and trails BC, City of Prince George and regional District staff and so there’s really an appetite out there to learn about this stuff and get it right.”
Pat says the desire for more knowledge was a bit of a surprise “We expected cooperation, but it really snow balled into an initiative that people really are interested in and bought into, more than we thought.”
While there is no current plan to revisit the audited sites to see if changes have been made, Pat says they will look into ding that kind of follow-up work “That’s a really important point. Once we’ve done an audit and we’ve given the park’s staff direction on what needs to be improved, the follow through, making sure those improvements have been made, is important. Going back in a year or two years because I think sometimes what these departments struggle with is budgets and funding for on going maintenance, so that’s really key, that whatever is done in terms of accessibility is kept up for sure.”