Accessible Parks and Recreation

The governments of Canada’s provinces are making efforts toward making parks and recreation areas accessible to all. Some of these initiatives include, Alberta’s inclusion strategy for its provincial parks, called “The Push to Open Nature Initiative,” and Parks and Recreation Ontario has a guidebook called Pathways to Recreation to help parks apply Ontario’s accessibility standard for the design of public spaces.

In Alberta, new park facilities, including visitor centres and shower buildings, are built with accessibility in mind. An exemplar of accessibility in Alberta’s provincial parks is the William Watson Lodge in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, which includes a main lodge and 22 accessible cabins surrounded by barrier free trails, picnic sites, and fishing areas. Adaptive equipment is also available in many parks, including Park Explorers (combination wheelchair/bicycles that can be pushed or operated with the upper body), TrailRider wheelchairs, sit-skis, and outrigger kayaks. The public is welcome to report barriers they have experienced in Alberta’s parks or suggest which places should be made more accessible (email pushtoopen@gov.ab.ca).

Ontario’s Pathways to Recreation outlines how the scope of the province’s accessibility design standard applies to new or redeveloped recreational trails, beach access routes, outdoor public use eating areas, and other aspects of parks. It highlights exemplars such as the York Regional Forest’s Hollidge Tract, an accessible trail that passes through a variety of natural areas. Successful development projects serve as examples of what is possible when there is a focus on including all community members in the outdoors.

To read more about Alberta’s Push to Open Nature, visit its website here. You can find the Pathways to Recreation document here, and if you are looking for an accessible trail in Ontario, Ontario Trails’ website has a useful list here.