Clay Webb and Dareen Kirkpatrick (back) move Marnie Essery down the partially completed accessible trail at Witty's Lagoon in a trail-rider wheelchair on Wednesday. The new trail should be finished in December.

Witty’s Lagoon forest becomes accessible for all

Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park is getting a makeover to help people who travel with the aid of wheelchairs, walkers or canes, to better enjoy the area.

Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park is getting a makeover to help people who travel with the aid of wheelchairs, walkers or canes, to better enjoy the area.

An accessible trail is being built through the forest from the West-Mont school parking lot to the teaching shelter in the park.

“We are constantly looking for ways to make the region parks system more accessible,” said Lloyd Rushton, general manager of parks and community services for Capital Regional District parks. “We try to have a new accessibility project each year.”

A CRD parks crew started construction of the trail in June. While the project is still in the works, the first 10 metres of the trail is near completion, with a hard-packed surface that can be compared to a sidewalk. A layer of fine gravel will top the path when it is finished in December.

Before work started, the trailhead was full of dense brush standing about six-feet high.

“It’s not a refurbished trail, it’s being built from scratch,” said Bobbi Neal, a member of Intermunicipal Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, a partner in the project.

Staying environmentally friendly is important for the project and the path is designed to “meander through the trees,” said Metchosin Coun. Larry Tremblay, chair of the District’s parks and trails advisory committee. The path is being built up over tree roots to protect them from damage.

“We are trying to preserve the natural species and look for the least amount of impact,” Neal said.

In constructing the pathway, CRD parks crews are filling in dips and gaps in the trail with logs and boulders to ensure the grade isn’t too steep for people with mobility issues.

“Ideally they like to stay at five to seven per cent grades,” Tremblay said.

Phase 1 of the project will finish when the trail reaches the teaching shelter and is about 350 metres long. That section costs $23,000 in materials and has been allocated out of the CRD parks budget. Parks is also covering the staff costs.

When funds are found for Phase 2, the path will continue to a view point at Sitting Lady falls, a short walk from the teaching shelter. The current path has protruding roots and stairs on route to the view point.

“(The waterfalls) would be the grand jewel to the project,” Tremblay said.

While there is already an accessible washroom near the teaching shelter, Rushton said in Phase 2 the washroom will either be upgraded or replaced.

The accessible path will provide a route for people to explore the park, it will not continue on to the lagoon due to the difficulty of the terrain. “It’s too steep and it’s quite a walk,” Neal said.

The project is similar to an assessable trail built at Mount Work Regional Park in Highlands this year. “(The Witty’s Lagoon trail) is a more natural experience with more challenging grades,” Neal said.

The trail has been in the planning stages for the past two years and is a partnership between CRD Parks, the District of Metchosin, West-Mont Montessori School and IACDI.

“This is an example of what can be accomplished when you make a partnership,” Rushton said. “We want to make our regional parks system as accessible as possible while using the resources that are available.”


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