Sunday, June 26, 2016

Three Day South Alberta Auditing Extravaganza

June 14 to16, 2016

For many years, I have wanted to audit physical spaces. I want to make people aware of the inaccessibility of the world to some of us. Of course, I realize that not everything can be changed, but there are many things that can be changed with little effort. The result is better access for everyone, and increased interest, business, or profit for the places making the changes. It sounds like a win- win situation for me.
Somehow there are two main groups in this conversation, those that are on board and those that are resisting. I had the pleasure of meeting many in the first group on my three day trip to southern Alberta with two fantastic Alberta Parks employees. We were on a mission to audit three sites that were receiving infrastructure money to increase accessibility to the parks.

Our first stop was Dinosaur Provincial Park. This is a UNESCO world heritage site, so I was excited to see what they offered the public. I had not been there for...well a long time. Let’s leave it at that. I was pleasantly surprised at the facilities and the care the staff had for the visitor’s experience. My colleagues and I looked at the comfort camping, visitor’s centre, select bathrooms, select campsites, a proposed self guided tour that would be completely accessible, and the accessible bus used for other tours. We were welcomed and people were very receptive to our comments. That is as good a start as you can get. 

Accessible shower in Dino Park 

Valley from a lookout in Dino Provincial park

Our second day took us to Kinbrook Island Park which is just southeast of Brooks, Alberta. When I was living there, they just called it Lake Newell. This is a camping, day use, picnic area, and boat launch. We looked at the shower building, campsite, specific day use areas, the food stand, and beach area. We did not look at the launch area with critical eyes as it is in the process of being upgraded.  There are other accessibility consultants that will contact the developer to make sure there is clear information on what would make the dock and launching area accessible.  This park has so much potential and has a good base to make this a very accessible place. It is very beautiful too, so it already has that going for it.


Our third day took us to Lethbridge area. We arrived at Park Lake. The parks people that guided us were so completely on board that I felt we had already made strives just by their attitude. This place was also beautiful. They were already ahead of the game by having designated wheelchair accessible camping areas. These are wider and paved. The camp sites have accessible picnic tables and are near the outhouses. The whole area has paved or packed pathways. It is easy to get to the waterfront area and along the lake. We found many things were already accessible and the staff was aware of the things that need to be upgraded to make them accessible. I have this place logged in my memory to come back to. I could see myself spending a day or a weekend there listening to the birds, having a picnic on one of the accessible tables, or scooting along the lake watching the animal life or just breathing in the fresh air.

The information we collected will be available to the public on the Alberta Parks website. This is a relatively new program, so it may take a little while to be complete.

To find more information on Alberta parks go to Alberta Parks inclusion initiative

Sikome Lake opening

June 23, 2016

Tonight I went to the re-opening of Sikome Lake in Calgary’s Fish Creek Provincial Park.  It is in the SE corner of Fish Creek near the Bow Valley Ranche. I arrived after a rain shower. I could smell the moisture in the air.  The sun had come back out and the evening was mild and the wind had subsided. It was a perfect night to get out the beach wheelchair. I ended up just watching a few people take it into the water, but it was fun to see the enjoyment it offered.

The enthusiasm was catching. My fellow Push to Open ambassadors were on hand. It was good to see many of the people in Alberta Parks who are advocates and leaders in the inclusion model within Alberta Parks. I am excited to go back and “get my feet wet” using the beach wheelchair.

Remember: “Everyone Belongs Outside.” So, go enjoy Sikome Aquatic Centre and get your feet wet in the outdoors. For more information go to Sikome Aquatic Facility

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Pilot project- Fish Creek Provincial Park minibus

May 26, 2016

Tonight I am on my way to the Bow Valley Ranch on the SE part of Fish Creek park to pilot using a minibus in conjunction with Friends of Fish Creek and Alberta Parks to offer tours to people with limited mobility or other people who want to see the park, but have no means to do so. We were checking for accessibility and for any impediments that could be removed. I love this idea as we also had a guide who had intimate knowledge of the park. I think more people would be willing to see this fabulous place with a little incentive such as this.

The weather was not cooperating tonight. The sky looked dark and ominous as I was driven down to the site. I knew we would be under the covered minibus, but it wouldn’t stop the cold and wind from chilling us all. Even with this prospect, we were all still excited about seeing the park. Many of our group had not been there at all before and I had only seen a fraction of this area.

photo courtesy of Mary Salvani

We all got into the minibus and we were then given a basic history of the area as well as information about what the night would hold.  Our driver, Don, started us down the paved path.  We had a few showers, but after 30 minutes of rain, the sun came out. We learned so much about the natural history of the park and what was done to reclaim the areas to make it the wonderful natural space it is now.
I think it was a successful pilot. Now we just have to spread the news.
Red Winged Blackbird- photo courtesy of Mary Salvani

Look for tours through Friends of Fish Creek... Minibus tours

Adaptive biking in Canmore

May 24, 2016

It’s a beautiful sunny, cool morning. At a mere 4 degrees, I had to wear layers and my winter coat. I don’t mind as I know it will warm up in the later hours. We started off early at 8:30 am to make it to Canmore by 10-ish. It is a new adaptive experience today. I am a little reticent as I am trying the hand cycle. None of my extremities are very strong, but my arms are weaker than my legs in this case. I really wasn’t sure how much this would work, but as always I try to lock those niggling ideas behind a closed door in my brain and just take the day as it comes. Whatever way it turns out, it is beautiful and I will be outside enjoying the breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains.

We arrive in Canmore on time and Jamie from Rocky Mountain Adaptive Sports picks me up at the designated meeting area and we are off to the pathway along the Bow River. This is a relatively flat and extensive pathway which will be great for a first attempt at the hand cycle. The cycle as you can see in the photo is three-wheeled and this particular one has an upright seat while some have reclining seats. These are not great for me as I end up only looking at the sky instead of ahead of me. Anyway, we adjust some of the settings on the bike. I need to be quite close to the turning mechanism to get it all the way around, but I think it will be alright.

We start on our way. Jamie pushes me over the hills that are a little too hard for me to get over and the rest I can coast. The brakes needed some getting used to because I had to push the handle forward. It wasn’t quite reacting as I wanted it to. There was only one time where I was going quite fast and was encountering people and an on- coming bike. I managed to get around them without creating an accident, but I breathed a sigh of relief when there was an uphill slope which slowed me down enough for Jamie to catch up with me. The rest of the way went great and I got in my speed fix. The wind in my hair, the sun on my skin and what feels like freedom...until the next hill anyway. I suppose that could be an analogy of life, couldn’t it?   

I managed to do more than I had first anticipated. This is often the case. As I opened that door in my mind where the negative thoughts were at the beginning of the day, I was not surprise to find it empty. I left that door open. It will be the prison of the next bout of thoughts that may impede having a wonderful day.

Until my next adventure, check out the video of my need for speed.

Check out  Rocky Mountain Adaptive Sports Center ... RMASC Facebook  or  rockymountainadaptive

Adaptive Biking - Canmore, Alberta