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Accessibility upgrades designed to make BC Parks more welcoming

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 10:37 PDT, Fri June 4, 2021

"Everyone is welcome in nature" is a message that carries the spirit of a renewed commitment by BC Parks to make outdoor recreation more accessible and inclusive.

BC Parks has seen a significant increase in the diversity of park visitors over the past decade and park visitation is reaching record highs. Expanding accessibility through new projects in campgrounds, day-use areas, playgrounds and a new welcome sign convey the principle that nature is for all.

"Our provincial parks are a place for everyone, and these initiatives are the beginning of a renewed commitment and an important step in our long-term commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity," said Kelly Greene, parliamentary secretary for environment. "Our province is strong because of the diversity of our people, and it is important that our parks system ensures that everyone is welcome and comfortable as they enjoy British Columbia's spectacular outdoors."

To ensure everyone can get out and enjoy nature, BC Parks continues to make accessibility upgrades in parks throughout the province and incorporates universal design standards in new campgrounds and recreation sites. Accessibility upgrades were recently completed at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park near Parksville and Loveland Bay Provincial Park near Campbell River.

At Rathtrevor Beach Park, the day-use parking lot has been paved. Accessible trail work is underway around the main day-use area. At Loveland Bay, several upgrades were made, including a reconstructed beach area with picnic tables, a universally designed beach access ramp and an additional 21 campsites.

With more than 23 million visits each year, new welcome signs are being installed at BC Parks entrance points, such as parking lots, kiosks, campgrounds and trailheads.

"The new signs are a welcoming reminder to visitors about B.C.'s rich diversity," said Rachna Singh, parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives. "This is a great first step and we are committed to doing more to make our parks inclusive and accessible."

New accessibility information is also being added to the BC Parks website. People will be able to see photos and descriptions of facilities before they arrive at the park they plan to visit.

"BC Parks is working hard to connect people, places and practices so that from the first point of contact to the moments of awe on the trails, all people of all backgrounds, identities, abilities and cultures can feel like they belong and can be a part of stewarding connections," said Carinna Kenigsberg, director of programs and impact for Power To Be, a non-profit organization that creates access to nature for youth, families and adults living with cognitive, physical, financial and social barriers. "From your earliest days, being in a park gives you a connection to the natural world in a way that only nature can facilitate. That connection is something everyone should be able to experience."

This week is AccessAbility Week in B.C.—an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities and recognize the efforts of individuals, communities and workplaces that are working to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion. AccessAbility Week is also nationally recognized.

"In celebrating AccessAbility Week, we remind ourselves that a truly inclusive B.C. is one where every person has equal opportunities to participate in their communities," said Dan Coulter, parliamentary secretary for accessibility. "The new BC Parks sign and accessibility upgrades are important steps in building a barrier-free B.C."

Learn more at www.bcparks.ca.

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