The district of Invermere recently improved accessibility around Kinsmen Beach, a move welcomed by former Invermere councillor and community accessibility champion Spring Hawes.


Paving work was undertaken and completed in mid-May, resulting in new or extended paved paths around the eastern parts of the Kinsmen Beach and Dorothy Lake area. The paved paths in the area now extend in a complete circle from the tennis courts north of the old Canadian Pacific Rail lodge down to the lake shore near Pynelogs, and then up along the lake to the playground and parking lot. In addition a grate was added under the west side of the old Canadian Pacific lodge, eliminating a gap that had previously interrupted the path.


“It looks great and I’m really happy to see it,” said Hawes.


Invermere mayor Gerry Taft told the Echo that council members had been aware that there were some issues with accessibility in the beach area since last fall, when they met there with Hawes, Katie Gibbs and other local residents involved with improving accessibility, to see firsthand what challenges existed (the session involved, for instance, council members trying to get around the area in wheelchairs).


“Basically we promised we’d put it (improvements) in the 2016 budget and that’s what’s been done,” said Taft, adding he wasn’t sure of the exact cost of the work, but estimated it to be less than $20,000.


“I think it’s going to make things a lot easier, not just for wheelchairs, but also for strollers, bicycles, everything,” he said, adding the connection for the parking lot to the amenity building was a particularly important part of the work.


The district has also put a sign up on the amenity building, informing locals and visitors alike about the accessible beach chair kept at the building, which is available for public use.


“The concession operator can get the beach chair, and the MobiMat (a sort of mat that can be rolled out over sand to create a harder, more accessible surface), if they are requested,” said Taft. “It provides another form of accessibility.”


Hawes had written to council earlier in May, asking where things stand with regard to some sort of accessibility policy, pointing out that council had publicly committed to a leadership role on accessibility some time ago.

Taft told the Echo that creating an Accessible Communities Framework is one of council’s official Strategic Priorities, but that it is in the “next” category on the list, behind the half-dozen or so priorities on the main part of the list (which includes projects such as the new multi-use centre and upgrades to the Athalmer boat launch).

At this stage it hasn’t really changed much, but it’s still on the list,” said Taft. “At this time, with so much attention and resources going to the multi-use centre and other unfinished projects, we don’t really have the resources to implement it (an Accessible Communities Framework) properly.”

Taft added that council is also struggling with whether or not such a policy should be generic or really specific. “To do it properly there needs to be some public consultation. It’s not something council should just go and do on its own,” he said.

The topic will likely be discussed by council during its next strategic planning meeting in June, according to Taft.