Every now and then a project comes to my notice that goes so far above and beyond expectations that it deserves every accolade it gets. One such project that I’ve been watching closely for a couple of years is the Universal Boardwalk at the Ancient Forest, near Prince George.
This unique section of forest has been preserved from logging and provides a beautiful and peaceful break from highway driving. Able-bodied visitors have had the opportunity to visit the “Big Tree”, waterfall, and other impressive natural features for some years. However, the terrain was such that anyone with any kind of mobility challenge could not access the forest.
Enter Nowell Senior and the Caledonia Ramblers, outdoor enthusiasts who realized the importance of ensuring that people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices could experience this inland temperate rain forest and thousand year-old cedars.
Building a wheelchair accessible boardwalk in this terrain has not been easy. The boardwalk statistics are impressive:
Construction took three years and 5700 hours of labor, with volunteers traveling more than 56,000 kilometres. Sixty tons of lumber was carried by hand. Three tons of hardware was used to fasten the boardwalk together. Eleven tons of rock, cinder blocks, gravel and paving stones support the boardwalk.
However, statistics do not tell the whole story. What kept this project going has been true dedication on the part of the volunteers and organizers who have given up so much of their own time to complete it. For a detailed description of the project and progress pictures from the past three years, visit the Caledonia Ramblers website.
Recently, Pat Harris and I visited the boardwalk, which is essentially complete except for a few cosmetics. It has progressed a lot since I last saw it covered in snow this past winter and it is truly a sight to behold. There will be designated parking for people with disabilities and there is an accessible outhouse next to the trail entrance.
The boardwalk has an easy grade and affords great views towards the mountains just before it enters the cedar forest. The trail is well-placed to view the massive trees close up and there are many interesting ferns, mosses and flowers to look at. The boardwalk ends at a small stream, which is cool and peaceful on a hot summer’s day.
Even for people who are not outdoors enthusiasts, the boardwalk is a must-see attraction if you’re in the Prince George area. It is located 113 kilometres east of Prince George on Highway 16 and offers a convenient place to stop for travelers going to and from Alberta, as well as a nice afternoon trip from Prince George. Everyone, including kids, seniors, parents with baby strollers, and people with disabilities, can enjoy the boardwalk while family members can also do the original trail.
The Grand Opening for the boardwalk will be held August 4, 2013. Join our Peers and enjoy the magnificent scenery and free lunch courtesy of the Caledonia Ramblers and trail sponsors.
When I look at the amount of work that has been put into this project, it serves as a positive reminder of the power of working together, of advocating for more accessible communities, and of the possibilities and opportunities out there for everyone.
At InfoLine we are always pleased to hear about projects promoting accessibility and especially those that go further into universal design. Please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1 800 689 2477 to tell us about initiatives in your area, or to ask about places to visit when traveling around BC.