After touring Cariboo communities this week, Rick Hansen said he’s very proud of all the accessibility upgrades he visited.
“It’s fantastic people are paying attention to opening up small communities for people with disabilities,” Hansen told the Tribune Wednesday. “Every time I come back to my hometown of Williams Lake I see how people are knocking down barriers and continuing the Man in Motion Dream.”
Hansen was in Williams Lake on his Man in Motion 25th Anniversary Tour in 2012 and unveiled a monument honouring the tour.
Since that visit he’s noticed new accessible upgrades at Boitanio Park, Scout Island and the Churn Creek Protected Area, he said.
On Tuesday Hansen visited the newly completed wheelchair accessible 365-metre Gavin Lakeshore Trail with his friend Roger Gysel of Williams Lake, one of the many volunteers who worked on the trail.
“The new trail adds so much to an already incredible facility,” Hansen said of Gavin Lake Forest Education Centre. “I’m so proud of the centre’s manager Mike Tudor.”
Tudor said it was an honour having Hansen visit the site.
The trail has been two years in the making, with the last nail hammered in just in time for Hansen’s visit, Tudor added.
“He was very impressed with the trail and hopes it gets plenty of use,” Tudor said. “There were almost 2,000 volunteers helping pack wood up the trail to the construction crew for the last two years.”
Most of the volunteer hours were donated by Grade 6 students attending the Fall School Program at the centre, he said.
Funding for the trail was made possible from a variety of organizations under the umbrella of the Cariboo Regional District, including the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Northern Development Initiative Trust, the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition and the Gavin Lake Forest Education Society.
Gavin Lake is an example of what people working at the grass roots level can accomplish, Hansen said.
While in the Cariboo, Hansen also toured accessible upgrades in the community of Likely with his former classmate Jim Gibson who is a resident there.
“I was impressed to see the community so focused on accessibility,” Hansen said.
The Rick Hansen Foundation has developed an online accessibility rating system which can serve as a guide for visitors.
People can rate buildings, communities, schools and facilities from one to five stars, leave comments and share them with everyone.
“When people see how accessible this area is they will want to visit,” Hansen said.
It is anticipated in 2030 one in five Canadians will have some sort of disability, with the growing demographic of baby boomers, Hansen predicted, suggesting Williams Lake needs to prepare for this reality and create a competitive advantage.
While in town Hansen also had the opportunity to visit with his father Marvin, who he said still plays a mean game of crib.
He also travelled to 100 Mile House Wednesday to visit a newly completed trail at 99-Mile and then expected to be home in Richmond with his family by evening.
The Hansens have three adult-aged daughters — Emma, Alana and Rebecca.
This April Emma will have her first baby, making Rick a proud grandpa, he said.