As a person who came to disability late in life, I am consistently surprised at the difficulties one faces. Recently, I took the trail around the north end of Alice Lake in my wheelchair.
When we arrived at 9 a.m., the parking lot was filling fast and we were lucky to get the last disabled parking spot. It seems to me that Alice Lake would be a perfect showcase for disabled tourism however the opposite proved to be true. I had several alarming difficulties on a very poor trail surface. It was marginal and obstructed by roots and run-off areas from the roadway above. The trail was so inaccessible in a very popular provincial park.
I became very appreciative of the accessibility standards of the trails we have locally in the District of Squamish. Our trails are District maintained and repaired.
Recently, the Squamish Trail Society and the Senior Smoothers have resurfaced many. I have come to accept a standard of safety on trail surfaces that gives confidence to people in wheelchairs and as a result, people of all abilities can travel with assurance. I feel confident in going by myself on the Nature Trail; it is a wonderful experience to be alone in nature at this stage of my life.
This is definitely not the situation in Alice Lake Provincial Park. I am curious that in such a well used Provincial Park trail standards for accessibility fall so far below our local municipal efforts. I was under the impression that some areas of accessibility were part of the standards in many of our provincial parks.
As we grow our tourism infrastructure I hope that accessibility will be held as a goal for our local development as well as provincially. Whistler has certainly recognized the importance of accessibility along its Valley Trail and accessible community standards. With an aging population nationally, the unfortunate consequences of high-risk sports and activities, in addition to Canada having the world’s highest incidence of MS, it seems to me that this is a logical direction of development.
We have in Sea to Sky Country an international reputation for mountain bike trails. My hope is that we can be as successful with the integration of disabled tourism with the benefits for visitors and residents.