Enhancing accessibility on Vancouver Island
As varied as The Great Trail is, so are its users. Indeed, people with disabilities and other challenges can enjoy numerous activities and explore Canada’s great outdoors on the Trail – thanks to the enhanced accessibility of certain Trail sections. Maintaining and improving accessibility on trails and at other destinations is part of the new action plan for Tourism Vancouver Island (TVI), one of Trans Canada Trail’s tourism partners.
“Tourism has the ability to change your world view, impact your life in a positive way and connect people. For that reason alone, we know we need to increase our inclusive travel opportunities so that more people can experience Vancouver Island,” says Anthony Everett, TVI president and CEO. The Great Trail in particular, he adds, with its wide paths and consistent grades, presents a phenomenal opportunity for travellers with disabilities to visit different parts of the island.
Take the Cowichan Valley Trail, home to the historic 45-metre Kinsol Trestle – one of the tallest freestanding timber rail crossings in the world. Not only was the 1920s-era structure completely rehabilitated, but the trail leading to the structure was also lined with fine gravel. A new parking lot and accessible viewpoints were also added.
“By raising awareness of the Cowichan Valley’s accessible tourism experiences, we can help disperse visitors from urban areas like Victoria and bring benefit to the many rural businesses in the valley,” says Mr. Everett.
Since the Kinsol Trestle’s restoration, Janet Docherty has noticed an increase in guests at her Merridale Cidery & Distillery. Located a mere eight kilometres off the Trail, the property’s fully accessible alfresco eatery, tasting lounge and self-guided tours make for the perfect après hike or bike spot. (After all, what better way to end a day on the Trail than over a bowl of cider-braised beef and apple stew, with a crisp Cowichan Dry craft cider or a swig of the newly released honey-sweetened liquor, Rhumb?)
“What’s happening on all of Vancouver Island now with the trails is inclusivity, that connection to nature and how we’re blending those tourism products around it,” says Ms. Docherty, who has owned and operated Merridale with her husband, Rick Pipes, for 20 years and counting.
Power to Be is an expert adviser to TVI on accessibility and inclusivity, and creates programs for people living with a diverse range of challenges and abilities – from acquired brain injuries and mobility issues to mental health considerations and autism. Connecting people to nature is the Victoria-based organization’s raison d’être. “Our goal is to connect people to natural surroundings so they can experience the outdoors and get the residual benefits that happen when anybody is in nature,” says Carinna Kenigsberg, manager of community partnerships at Power To Be.
TCT continues to work closely with TVI and Power to Be to support and promote experiences that resonate with people of all ages and abilities along Vancouver Island’s section of the Trail.