Around three years ago, someone made an anonymous $5,000 donation towards the Williams Lake Curling Centre, kick-starting an accessibility project.
On June 29, 2023, Rick Hansen and a crowd of over 40 people cut the ribbon on the elevator.
But while Hansen and Mike Pederson, curling club president, both celebrated the improvements, they also pointed out the need to continue to set new targets.
When most of us will experience some form of disability at some point in our lifetime, the need for renovations will continue, and building codes still do not take into account most disabilities in new construction.
“Building a more accessible centre doesn’t have a finish line,” said Pederson, noting they continue to work to build inclusivity.
Rick Hansen said a few words and mentioned how important community was for his own recovery after his spinal cord injury.
“For all these years I’ve been so proud of this community,” he said, noting he was excited to celebrate the leadership of the curling club.
Mayor Surinderpal Rathor recognized the importance of the curling centre to not only physical wellness, but social and community wellness as well. Rathor said he looks forward to making Williams Lake a leader in accessibility.
“We have a long way to go yet,” he said.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson and Cariboo Regional District chair Margo Wagner, who is also with Northern Development Initiative Trust, spoke as well. Wagner acknowledged her own limited mobility as she waits for a knee replacement.
Doerkson spoke of the importance of the centre for more than curling, including hosting dances and Harvest Fair, calling it a “cornerstone to the community.”
The project provided accessibility improvements to the centre, but required much more funding than the initial donation. Grants were applied for, and in 2021, the installation of an elevator shaft began.
Accessible doors, improvements to the surface leading up to the entrance, the elevator and an accessible bathroom on the ground floor were all part of the project.
This project was completed at a cost of $150,000, the bulk of the funds coming from four separate grants. The club still plans to upgrade the upstairs washroom to be accessible as well.
Federal Enabling Accessibility Fund, a Provincial Gaming Grant, Northern Development Initiative Trust, and Canada Community Revitalization Fund all contributed funds to the completed upgrades, along with some in-kind work by the city of Williams Lake.
In March 2023, the club was recognized with an accessibility award of merit from the city for the work in improving the facility.
The Williams Lake Curling Centre was also recognized as the 2023 Curling Centre of the Year by Curl B.C.
With Black Press Media files